Monday, 14 March 2011

Paul Collingwood's 300

Being the sentimental fool that I can be, I was reading through some Paul Collingwood tribute posts (he's not dead, but his career is). He's a man who has retired from tests, and after falling out of form and out of the team, looks as though he won't play for England after this World Cup.

One one of the posts I was reading, someone commented that Collingwood was only a few games away from becoming England's most capped player ever. After doing some well constructed research, I found that by playing against Bangladesh on Sunday, Colly reached his 300th game for England - only three behind serial record holder Alec Stewart. A pretty big achievement that went unnoticed amidst the carnage of England's defeat.

Of all of the hundreds and thousands of players to have pulled on the three lions to represent their country, only two have done it more than 300 times. While that may appear small fry compared to Sachin Tendulkar's 627 caps, don't ignore the gravity of that achievement. A regular in England colours for over a decade is remarkable - especially considering the vast amount of players that have been tried and discarded since he made his debut against Pakistan in 2001.

While a dip in form towards the end of his 300 games may give some the opinion that he was nothing more than a gutsy battler, Colly has been so much more than that. His batting at times could be sublime, with some brilliant hundreds in both ODIs and tests, picking up 15 tons and 49 fifties (so far). A cool head in the middle order, Collingwood could be relied upon to recover after a top-order failure, or push on in a position of strength. And his vigil at Cardiff in '09 showed the sheer determination of the man to never give his wicket away for his country.

His bowling was underrated - especially in ODIs, where his medium pacers gave selectors the luxury of playing an extra batsman. While he could pick up prodigious swing (somehow taking a six-fer against Bangladesh in 2005) in his earlier days, the older Collingwood has stuck more to off-cutters, using all of his experience to tie batsmen down (as well as picking up 111 ODI wickets). While he may not have been as threatening as other members of the attack, he would be a useful foil for established bowlers, and would always be willing to turn his arm over, irregardless of the situation.

And who can forget his fielding - athletic, agile and always alert, Colly was the greatest fielder in the generation where fielding became just as important as the other disciplines. Always prone to a stunning one-hander, Colly has remained just as nimble in the field from his first appearance to his most recent.

A dip in form has seen Colly's place questioned for the first time in years, and has seen him go in and out of the team. Added to that the fact that England may not progress further in this World Cup than their final group game against the West Indies, and Collingwood's bid to make a historic 304th appearance suddenly looks unlikely (he would have to play in every game up and including the final - assuming England get there). Becoming England's record appearance maker wouldn't make him England's greatest player (far from it), but it would be nice to see Collingwood get a reward for all of the hard graft he has put in for his country over the past ten years. A man who has won three Ashes and led England to a maiden World Cup, Collingwood deserves all of the plaudits in the world, but sadly he hasn't got many for making his 300th appearance. So on behalf of England supporters - thanks Colly.

And just to tarnish that nice post, here's the main reason I did this post...


(Thanks to Hannah for the picture)

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