After a decade as a regular for the England test and one-day teams, Paul Collingwood is dipping his toe in international coaching. Ben Stanley spoke to Scotland's new coach as they attempt to qualify for next year's World Cup from this week.
For the best part of a decade, Paul Collingwood was the type of cricketer you couldn't help but love.
Though not a bloke who possessed the classiest shots at the crease or a man who could change the game with an utterly unplayable in-swinger, you knew when Collingwood was in the game you had a fight on your hands.
From 2003 to 2011, he was that chiselled piece of Durham stone in the middle of England's test order, crafting 4259 runs at 40.56 in 68 tests, and featuring prominently in three Ashes-winning teams.
In the one-day format, he played more games for England than any other - 197 - captaining his country for several years, as well as skippering them to their first tournament victory, the 2010 Twenty20 World Cup.
A battler, a fighter, a true scrapper - and now a coach. At 37 years of age and with one year still to run on his current contract with his beloved Durham, Collingwood is in New Zealand, co-coaching Scotland in the ICC Cricket World Cup qualifying tournament, beginning around the country tomorrow.
Scotland approached Collingwood last October to serve as an assistant coach under Australian Peter Steindl. He saw his position elevated to co-coach alongside Craig Wright, after Steindl stood down following Scotland's failure in the ICC World Twenty20 qualifier in Dubai in November. Though being an international co-coach came a lot quicker than Collingwood thought it might, it's a role he is enjoying immensely.
"It's something I've thought about my whole career - that's giving back to the game," Collingwood told the Sunday Star-Times last week.
"That's giving back to the youngsters what you've learned and what you've developed over the many years I've played professional cricket.
"If I can give one per cent to one player, you've done your job - but hopefully you can have a lot more success along the way."
The World Cup qualifying tournament has very much a "Sydney or the bush" feel to it. Reach the final, and you're heading to next year's World Cup. Finish anywhere else, and watch the big one-day tournament on your TV back home in Glasgow.
Scotland head into the qualifying tournament as one of the better rated teams, behind only the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Netherlands in terms of ICC rankings. Getting to the final will be no walk in the park however, Collingwood said.
"There's a lot of pressure on teams," he said. "There is a lot of money involved. We know what the task in front of us is, and we know it's going to be difficult.
"A lot of these associate teams are very, very talented sides and they come out and play with no fear. I was absolutely amazed how teams played during the Twenty20 qualifiers last November."
While the second tier of international cricket gets nowhere near the attention a touring England side might, Collingwood believes it is crucial to grow the game in places like Scotland, UAE and the Netherlands.
Collingwood, who was recently called out by former skipper Michael Vaughan to join the English coaching setup following the embarrassing 5-0 Ashes whitewash in Australia, pointed to the incredible story of Afghanistan qualifying for next year's World Cup directly, and previous top level upsets as the impact smaller nations can have.
"You almost take it for granted when you play for England, and any other top international side," he said. "It's like winning the lottery for these guys.
"I've got first-hand experience losing against the Netherlands, in the opening game in T20 World Cup in England, and losing against Ireland in the last World Cup in Bangalore.
"These guys are certainly hard to play against at World Cups - let's just hope I can help get Scotland there."
His contract with Scotland runs out after this month's tournament in New Zealand - but Collingwood admitted it would be "hard not to" return with the side to next year's World Cup if they qualified.
"To be so close to them, it's great to forge those relationships," he said. "It is only two months, but you never know what can happen in the future."
WORLD CUP QUALIFYING: HOW IT WORKS
- Two pools of five teams. Group A: United Arab Emirates, Scotland, Canada, Hong Kong and Nepal. Group B: Netherlands, Kenya, Namibia, Papua New Guinea and Uganda.
- Top three in each pool advance onto the Super Six stage.
- Top two after Super Six qualify for the World Cup and play in the final.
Netherlands v Uganda, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui
Kenya v Papua New Guinea, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth
UAE v Nepal, Rangiora Oval, Rangiora
Scotland v Hong Kong, Queenstown Events Centre, Queenstown
- Sunday Star Times
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