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‘I want England to have fun’

London: This is much more like it, after months of losing matches and players, of meek submissions and bloodletting. The new foundation stone of English cricket has yet to be laid — the next team director — but the walls of the new building will be partly constructed of the soundest English oak.

In the first of two appointments, Middlesex director Angus Fraser was made a selector, and while the second is temporary it will surely lead to something longer term. Paul Collingwood has been handed a seven-week contract as England’s assistant coach for the brief tour of the West Indies and the World T20 finals in Bangladesh, and while he is officially in charge of England’s fielding — which has sagged this winter — his influence should be all-pervasive.

An England team with Collingwood playing in it, or coaching it, would never have lain down so meekly as Alastair Cook’s.

Australia’s pack-leaders — Michael Clarke, David Warner and Mitchell Johnson — roared in England’s faces and, apart from a few snarls from James Anderson, England were too nice to respond.

Collingwood, 37, comes from a different angle: one devoid of silver spoons. “My first coach was Dad in the kitchen — the smallest kitchen-cum-dining room you could imagine, about six yards across. He bowled at me with a sponge ball and I had to keep my left elbow up — though you’d never know it now — and hit through the V. We didn’t have a back garden, so me and my older brother played in the back street but it was very bumpy and unpredictable.”

Apart from his 9,934 runs, 210 catches (including some blinders at point) and 144 wickets in international cricket, Collingwood’s prime qualifications have been his captaincy at Durham, whom he led to the championship title last summer, and his coaching of Scotland, whom he steered into the 2015 World Cup.

Until last year Collingwood was still the only locally born batsman of note who Durham had produced since becoming a first-class county in 1991.

That was because the Riverside had such difficult pitches with their uneven bounce. “Either it makes you mentally tough or it breaks you.”

In the next two months England’s T20 side need Collingwood to do for them what he did for Durham last summer. He so inspired his young top four of Mark Stoneman, Keaton Jennings, Scott Borthwick and Ben Stokes that they scored almost 3,500 Championship runs. It defied the conventional belief that lads could not learn on the job without a senior pro at the other end. How did he do it?

“When you’ve got senior players around, the younger ones sort of aren’t expected to get the runs. Give them a major role and responsibility and they’ll make the runs if they play their natural games.”

Durham’s young batsmen however had a safety net: Collingwood himself at No.6.

England’s T20 top order — Michael Lumb, Alex Hales, Luke Wright and Joe Root — has no old head, now that Kevin Pietersen has gone.

“I don’t know what was going on in the England dressing-room last winter but what I learned while coaching Scotland was that the environment is a real crucial factor. I felt the Scotland players had amazing skills — Calum MacLeod is as good at sweeping as Eoin Morgan — but they were too desperate about winning. So I didn’t have to change their techniques but the team environment, by having some fun — and you work best when you are having fun.”

This will make a blessed relief 
from the England players’ mantra in Australia: “we’ve got to work harder”.

Collingwood has only a Level One coaching certificate — “I’m just about qualified to put up the nets” he says — but he knows what works. “Sometimes you can try too hard, and I don’t want players to go through what I went through — the pressure you put yourself under.”

Collingwood’s empowering of young batsmen at Durham stemmed from what he picked up from the best coaches he played under.

“I’ve got a lot to thank Duncan Fletcher for, because he put a lot of faith in me at the start of my England career — and the same with Geoff Cook in my early days at Durham — and the brilliant way Duncan worked with an individual on the real intricacies of batting. I’d like to take things from Andy Flower — the way he was never frightened to make big decisions and the motto of making every decision for the good of the England team.

“I could never bat like KP and take the game away from the opposition like he did, but there are players who need that freedom. I’ve always been a big believer in Eoin Morgan — he was just about the sole reason for England winning a one-day series in my time.”

Collingwood is still the only England captain to have won a global trophy, the World T20 in 2009, and he owed something to his experiences with Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League.

“I learned how the best players did not always prepare the way you thought they would — Virender Sehwag just had a few throw-downs, which was a bit of an eye-opener. My philosophy is to give players the best chance to find things out for themselves.

“It was probably in the IPL I realised that left-armers had such a crucial role at the back end of an innings. I think six out of the top seven bowlers were left-arm, which is why we went for Ryan Sidebottom in the tournament.”

No left-arm pace bowler, with his wide range of angles: this has been one of several structural defects in England’s limited-overs game.

Collingwood has to play the coming season with Durham. Thereafter, if he secures a permanent role and if England lose, they will at least take some opponents down with them.

— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2014

PROFILE

Full name: Paul David Collingwood

Date of birth: May 26, 1976

Place of birth: Shotley Bridge, Co Durham (37 years)

Teams: For England & Durham. For Delhi Daredevils in IPL and Perth Scorchers in Big Bang

Type: Right-hand, middle-order batsman and right-arm medium pace (Allrounder)

Career statistics

Format Mts Inns NO Runs HS Ave SR 100 50 Ct

Tests 68 115 10 4259 206 40.56 46.44 10 20 96

ODIs 197 181 37 5092 120* 35.36 76.98 5 26 108

T20Is 35 33 2 583 79 18.80 127.01 0 3 14

Format Mts Balls Runs Wkts Best Ave R/o SR 4wi

Tests 68 1905 1018 17 3/23 59.88 3.20 112.00 0

ODIs 197 5186 4294 111 6/31 38.68 4.96 46.70 3

T20Is 35 222 329 16 4/22 20.56 8.89 13.80 1