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Collingwood: The Answer to England's Calling
by Sreelata Yellamrazu
Feb 10, 2007
Sir Geoffrey Boycott had everyone in splits when he said India would have to work harder to win the World Cup and added, “but not as much as England.” Boycott was in Mumbai in connection with a cricket based reality show. But he would have been enjoying the laugh himself on this occasion, the reason being England punching Australia in the solar plexus a crucial game as the first of the best of three finals in the tri series in Australia.

Somewhere between the Laras and the Pontings, history fails to recall the names of men who also made a mark. Paul Collingwood has also been an unsung hero, who like the worker ants meticulously goes about his role in unassuming fashion and irrespective of the world around them that seems to bask in the limelight, for right or wrong reasons.

But all that has, or should have, changed dramatically after Friday’s final. Actually it would be pertinent to remember that England went through to the finals primarily on the basis of the century that Paul Collingwood made in Brisbane. That century not only helped England win the match by fourteen runs but also, thwarted a major attempt by New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming to seal a place for his team in the final.

Paul Collingwood entered into the England fold in a growing fad of bits-and-pieces player. That tag has stuck for many a years with little change to reputation. Collingwood has been a perpetual player on the fringe and recalled to the side instantly on the unavailability of a more frontline batsman. But there was no shot in anger. It was precision timing and perfection at play and Collingwood made it count on two worthy occasions.

It was contradictory in many ways as New Zealand always seemed to have the edge in terms of measuring the three teams of coming closer to Australia. But it also has to be remembered that it was Andrew Flintoff’s innings as stand in skipper that got the first taste for England against New Zealand in their first clash of the tournament.

It was a happy homecoming for England in such a foreign, alien land that has seen them being brought to their knees by the five nil Ashes whitewash. Melbourne was also where England opened their innings against Australia in the tri series and ended up losing that first game by eight wickets. But Collingwood had shown his presence even then with a valuable forty-three that was overshadowed by Kevin Pieterson’s eighty-two. As it turned out, Pieterson flew home with century and suddenly England was looking even more brittle in line up.

Melbourne was once again the scene of the first final and the seemingly half-baked team came to the fore and handed the seemingly invulnerable team a jolt. With what timing! To hand Ricky Ponting and Australia a thumping, resounding taste of defeat in the final of the tournament in the tune up to the world cup must come as a wake up call even for Australia. There is no doubt Australia has the edge over other teams simply for the lack of progressive development in the same momentum as Australia. However, Australia’s chinks can be exploited, a factor both the other teams of the tournament dwelt on.

Australia is a major match team where the champions rise as the bigger stage gets its foundation laid. The one loss that Australia suffered previously in the tournament came when Ponting was rested and Adam Gilchrist took over the reins. It was the tenth game of the tournament and Australia was well on its way to achieving the larger goals in terms of fine tuning towards the big event. On that occasion though, it was the understated Ed Joyce whose century pushed England to the 292 mark. In the face of the more prominent performers, significant contributions from men like Ian Bell get visibly overshadowed. Collingwood has been one of those whose effort towards England’s cause were likely to go unnoticed in a decade’s time, dwarfed amidst the handful of illustrious names.

Over the last decade or so, England has tried and tested several players in not only the one day international slot but also, in the role of several bits-and-pieces players trying to make up for one good, sturdy middle order batsman. Collingwood has survived the fad, hung onto his convictions and in the absence of star performers like Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick and Pieterson, has perhaps finally featured so prominently in his role.

But Collingwood did not just give England a lifeline. He gave them more than that. He has given them a chance to believe and to watch belief convert to success. His personal success has already multiplied in the team equation to count for victory for Australia in a final, something Australia is certainly not used to, not that often anyway. To taste ignominy on home turf is another of Australia’s rarities and yet with help from significant other contributors around him, Collingwood has helped England achieve that.

Collingwood is a seasoned player to know that England still has a battle, one that must be finished to make it all count. Boycott was still counting on a surprise or two. This will be one of England’s most rousing ones. Collingwood alone is not enough to effect the turnaround. But he could well be the catalyst.

Collingwood’s form would be crucial to England’s chances in the World Cup, just as important as Michael Vaughan’s recuperation from not just the hamstring but from a string of injury worries and just as important as Andrew Flintoff’s presence of mind cometh the hour!

More Views by Sreelata Yellamrazu
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