Paul Collingwood – an England professional

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The days of Gentlemen and Players are long gone, but Paul Collingwood would have been the latter – a man who never lost sight of the fact that it was all about scoring runs; taking wickets and catches; and occasionally missing the ball often enough that your team salvaged a draw.

He was a state school batsman where his contemporaries were generally more privileged or from overseas, so he was our representative in the top six. And maybe it all goes back to that era of Gentlemen and Players, but he was subtly patronised by the public school, brahmin-esque cricket establishment for much of his career. He ‘made the most of his talent’ they said. He didn’t have much style.


Let’s get something straight: batting is about scoring runs. If you score runs, you are a good batsman; if you don’t score runs, you aren’t a good batsman.

Suggestions that Paul Collingwood ‘got the most out of his talent’ so that he could score more runs than ‘better’ batsmen are spectacularly illogical. Getting the most out of his talent is what made Paul Collingwood a better batsman than all the weak-willed stylists and technically correct teasers who trailed in his wake. Every international cricketer should make the most of their talent. That should be a given.

What is style, anyway?

Why should one stroke be more aesthetically pleasing than another? Is there something inherently beautiful about a textbook cover drive or do we learn to appreciate it because of what we hear from other people? Off-side strokes are invariably considered more stylish than leg-side strokes and this arises from the fact that the amateur Gentlemen of yesteryear played into the off-side having been brought up on true pitches, while the Professionals worked the ball to leg, because it was all about the runs.

Paul Collingwood was all about runs.

In India

It was in Nagpur that we realised that Paul Collingwood brought more than just ‘a bit of ginger’ to the team, as he had once claimed. He scored 400 runs at 57.14 in India, which is better than almost every English batsman who’s ever gone over there. That Nagpur hundred held England together.

In Australia

Forget the 2010-11 series. In 2006, an Aussie paper called him England’s worst ever number four. A lot of people said he was out of his depth. Paul Collingwood promptly scored 206.

Far from being out of his depth, Collingwood showed that he was in fact the complete antithesis of the spineless Pom who crumbles at the first ‘g’day’. It should have been no surprise. When he and Alastair Cook had both scored hundreds against Pakistan earlier in the year, Cook had revealed how Collingwood had kept the score ticking over when he himself couldn’t even get the ball off the square.

Cook was openly admiring Collingwood’s ability when he said that, but memories are short when it comes to Paul Collingwood. Where a poor series for some batsmen would be branded ‘poor form’, Collingwood was more likely to be dismissed with a curt ‘he’s crap’.

The grit

You can’t talk about Colly without talking persistence of motive and effort – grit.

Great bowling? Duff pitch? Impossible match situation? Personal poor form? All water off a duck’s teflon-coated umbrella to Paul Collingwood.

He was in dire form against South Africa in 2006 and about to be dropped. In what had appeared likely to be his last Test innings, he worked his way to 94 not out.

Kevin Pietersen had been dismissed going for the glory hundred when on 94 earlier in the day. Did Collingwood learn from this? Yes, of course he did – he learnt that you should middle it when trying to reach your hundred with a six.

How dour and functional of him.

More obviously gritty were the four-hour 74 at Cardiff in the 2009 Ashes, for which every England fan will be forever grateful, and the even more gloriously lumpen twin innings in South Africa that also led to nine-wickets-down draws. A 99-ball 26 at Centurion and a one-man leaving/missing case study at Newlands that saw 40 runs scored in more than four and a half hours.

Apologies if you think this post is a bit long, but we’ve always wanted to do Paul Collingwood justice because we feel like other people won’t. Frankly, he’s one of our heroes.


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  1. Nice work old chap…

    I have an unnatural amount of man love for the nuggety nurdler.

    A marvelous man, blessed with masses of talent. To bat, bowl and field as well as he does, shows the level of commitment that he put into cricket.

    Now he can come and join the republican army on a more permanent basis, arise Colonel Collingwood!

  2. Paul Collingwood was worth his place in the team for most of his career.

    There have been times when this was only barely true, but for the most part he was fine. Interestingly, it was during those times that he was able to pull one out of the bag. I don’t know whether this says “Good on you for scoring under pressure” or “Shame on you for only doing it when it mattered to you”. Probably neither – it was just one of those things.

    The measure of reasonableness for a test batsman is an average of 40. Averaging 39 is poor. 40 is decent. Collingwood averaged 40-and-a-half. This is typical. A decent test batsman, but only just.

    Of the batsman he currently plays with, he has the lowest average. Strauss and Prior average 43, Bell 45, Cook 47, KP 48 and Trott a bizarre 61. This makes them all better batsmen than Collingwood by quite a lot. The nearest to him in averages, Strauss and Prior, have other stuff to do. Collingwood was in as a pure batsman, so the nearest comparison is the often-dropped Bell, who beats him by a full five points. This, in test match terms, is a massive difference.

    I put the first sentence in a paragraph of its own because it sums up exactly what I think. You have to be a brilliant sportsman to deserve a place in an international team, and Collingwood fully deserved his place. But the debate about him seems to be polarised between Collingwood Was Crap and Collingwood Was Superb. He was neither of these things. If I met him in the pub I’d shake his hand, buy him a drink, and congratulate him on his test career. And that’s it.

  3. You’ve got to love shades of grey on this website.

    As a postscript to Bert’s comment, we’d also add that Collingwood probably saved more than three runs an innings in the field compared to your average fielder.

    That would be true solely of his ground fielding, but he also took a handful of catches which cumulatively saved hundreds of runs.

    This is relevant if you’re comparing averages.

    Which we’re not…

  4. Stats will show that Colly contributed bugger all to this Ashes win. That’s why the TV management of stats need to step up a gear and work out how to “factor in” the fielding. You had to admit at times this winter he looked like he was only in the side for his fielding. But thank god he was. Catches like the one off Ponting in an individual match count for far much more than a nurdled 40, and he did this time and time again. Weigh that up and you’ll find yourself talking up a 40 average into a 45 and rightly so. The figures betray that truth.

  5. Here v much here. All those “made the best of his limited natural ability” tribs were intensely patronising, treating one of our finest players of the last few years like a toddler who’d managed to get in all in his potty once in a while. The man has been like a yogic panther in the field his whole career and if you can’t see the natural ability of someone who can tell Dale Steyn to fudge off for hours on end and score a double ton off mcG and SKW you are, quite frankly, a nincompoop. That’s not a word I use lightly, either. Now I’ve contributed can sneak in a link to my ENG-AUS 2nd T20I stats preview… …? It’s v racy and mentions Mark Lamarr.

  6. I’m loving all the Colly love emanating from KC – as a fully paid up member of the ginger ninja’s fan club I agree wholeheartedly with every word.

    Would you want the likes of KP next to you in the trenches or when under fire in a rain-filled foxhole in the middle of the jungle? ( I watch a lot of war films). No – you’d want Captain Colly, and that’s why he’d be the first name on my team sheet regardless of his current average.

  7. Thank you, KC. As a long-time member of the Collingwood fan club, I was waiting for this. I was tired of all that 100 per cent of his ability/brings a lot of intangible qualities to the dressing room bullshit.
    I genuinely think he’s a very attractive batsman to watch – the way he clips the ball into the leg side with that precise, minimalist unlocking of his wrists is brilliant to watch and such a pleasure to imitate in the backyard.
    It’s different from, say, VVS Laxman’s far more extravagant wrist twirl, but, to me, they’re equally good to watch.
    And Colly has always been great at working the spinners around – something most English batsmen, traditionally, aren’t too good at. As someone from India, that makes me like him even more.
    When he makes runs against spin, he does so with a variety of deft strokes around the wicket and not, unlike some other genuinely ugly batsmen (Matthew Hayden, anyone?), by sweeping everything in sight.

  8. Errrr, I’m not sure where I was when you first posted this but I wholeheartedly agree.

    Colly was by far and away my favourite cricketer in the last ten years. I’m typing this on my phone in the lobby of a hotel in Goa, so can’t effuse as much as I might. But ask Price. I bang on about colly almost as much as I do about Chris read.

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