Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby
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Interim head coach Paul Collingwood has said that despite England's loss to West Indies he believes the team is making progress and that he "couldn't be more positive of what we've done over these past three-and-a-half weeks".
Speaking the day after England fell to a 10-wicket defeat in Grenada, Collingwood confirmed that he had "put his hat in the ring" to take on the head coach role full time and reiterated that captain Joe Root had the full support of the team. "Sometimes it amazes me that he gets questioned because of how it feels in the dressing room," Collingwood said.
England's defeat in the Caribbean meant it was a fifth successive series without a win for the team, who now have just one victory in their last 17 Tests. It also extended their winless run in the West Indies to 18 years and counting.
Defeat in Grenada was a disappointing end to a tour on which England had for the most part dominated, with West Indies holding on for draws on the fifth day in both Antigua and Barbados.
"To not get a result out of those [games] was disappointing," Collingwood said. "The series could have been totally different. I always felt we were one or two wickets away from breaking West Indies in those first two games. But we weren't able to do it and coming into the last game, our performance level wasn't to the standard of the first two games.
"I couldn't be more positive of what we've done over these past three-and-a-half weeks in the West Indies. The response from the players from what I felt as though we'd picked up from Australia moving into here, the way we went about giving them clarity, direction, and how open they were, and where they were as individuals, as a team, and how we were going to move forward, it was always my challenge to leave this team in a better place than when I first got it, and I personally feel as though it's a lot stronger now than when I first picked the team up.
"Everyone's seen the results on the park, of course we didn't get the win in Antigua or Barbados, but you could see the way the guys were playing there was a real determination to win those games, whether it be the declarations, or the way we were setting totals up, the guys are going out there and producing some very good cricket. If they continue playing like that they will turn the corner and win games of cricket very quickly."
Nevertheless, defeat has increased the pressure on Root to step down as England captain after five years in the job. By number of matches Root is England's most-experienced Test captain of all time and holds the records for both most wins and most losses.
"I can see it because we are not winning games of cricket," Collingwood said of the growing calls for Root to be replaced. "When you have that kind of record, I can understand where the noise comes from. [But] you have to understand how it feels in the dressing room and how strong a leader he is. He has the full backing. The full backing from all the players and the management as well. It feels like he is still very much our No1 to take this team forward.
"Sometimes it amazes me that he gets questioned, because of how it feels within the dressing room," he added. "It's the first time I've experienced him as a head coach, and worked with him. You can see the passion, the drive. There's a real hunger to get it right. These aren't just words coming out of his mouth. He's desperate to get the team back to winning games of cricket.
Ben Stokes puts his arm around Joe Root after England's defeat•Getty Images
"I can't say anything but positivity in terms of what he's done leadership-wise in the dressing room, trying to move this team forward. He's been unbelievable in this Test series to work with and see how he goes about his business, and being able to give the rest of the players responsibility."
Collingwood reiterated that England had no regrets with the squad that they chose for the tour having controversially left out both James Anderson and Stuart Broad for the trip. Including the tour away to India last year and New Zealand at home, it is the third Test series in 12 months where England have chosen to rest and rotate players and not gone in with a full-strength side, and Collingwood agreed it was time to take a more short-term approach to selections, with an emphasis on winning the next match rather than the one after.
"On this trip we've selected guys who were in the squad," he said. "We've selected for what the conditions have been cut out for us. We have had a lot of injuries as well, some of our top players, but we came across here to win the series with the squad that we have. We were pushed with a couple of injuries to Woody [Mark Wood] and things like that. But I always felt like we had a team good enough to win. But moving forward, the new coach comes in I'm sure he'll want the best team possible.
But, he stressed, England would "have to be very careful" with player workloads, citing the experience of Ben Stokes, who missed a significant chunk of last year after taking a break for mental health reasons. Stokes then suffered a side injury during the Ashes and was expected to be eased back into bowling in the Caribbean, only to end up delivering more overs than any other England seamer.
"We're playing Covid catch-up. Ben's been a prime example - he's put his body on the line this series because he wants to win games of cricket. Players continue to do that and they'll break, they'll break physically and emotionally. So we've got to be a little bit careful to say get the best team on the park every time because that fixture list moving forward is horrific."