PAUL Collingwood told last night how he has postponed taking his coaching badges to spend a winter learning on the job as an assistant coach with Scotland – one that he hopes will end with the national side celebrating qualification for two World Cups.
Collingwood is England’s most capped player in one-day internationals and captained his country to victory in the 2010 World Twenty20, so he is ideally positioned to help Scotland figure out how to hold their nerve at the 2015 World Cup Qualifier that takes place in New Zealand next January.
Two months prior to that, Pete Steindl’s side enter qualifying for the 2014 World Twenty20 but, with six places on offer there, as opposed to just two in the 50-over showpiece, the pressure is stacked on the trip to New Zealand. On two of the last three occasions, in 2001 and 2009, Scotland have dealt poorly with high expectations in this tournament, and their failure to qualify for World Cups has set the game back years.
No pressure, then, Colly.
“When I was a youngster in the Durham squad, one of the things David Boon always said to me was that top-level sport was 90 per cent mental, 10 per cent technique,” Collingwood, who will be joined in Steindl’s backroom by former Scotland captain Craig Wright, told The Scotsman last night.
“I never quite understood what he meant but, as I learned about the game, he was 100 per cent right. A lot of it is in the mind, and a lot of it is confidence. You have your strengths and weaknesses as a player, and if I can somehow bring confidence to the party and to individuals, then hopefully that will help the team overall.”
The main reason Collingwood played a record 197 ODIs was his versatility. He was an asset in batting, bowling and fielding. It follows, then, that his practical contribution to the Scottish cause should be three-fold.
“It’s three-dimensional and, if I can add one per cent in all those areas, then I’ve done my job. If I can add more than one per cent, fantastic. It’s not just batting, it’s bowling and fielding as well. There are good coaches there already, in Scotland, who can do the job but if I can bring an experience of winning world tournaments and playing at the top level, I hope it will help.
“I was going to take my coaching badges in January but now I’m having to put them off. I think this opportunity to get some raw experience could add a bit more to my CV than the coaching badges at the moment, and eventually the two will mix.”
Collingwood, refreshed by a summer that culminated in county championship glory with Durham, played against the Scottish Saltires as recently as August, in Glasgow, and took three wickets for five runs in a more lopsided contest in Chester-le-Street in June.
The all-rounder was not involved, significantly, in either of the sobering defeats by the Saltires that the county experienced in 2003 and 2004, so it is not easy to accept his assertion that he has “always been impressed by Scotland as an outfit”.
This is a team that has been on the wane since 2007 but Collingwood is smart enough to realise that if he can become associated with a success story in his first four months in coaching, it will do his second career in cricket no harm. His continuing commitments to Durham will prevent this tie-up from becoming permanent – something that would probably be beyond the means of Cricket Scotland in any case.
“I’ve played against Scotland a few times, I’ve always been impressed with Scotland as an outfit,” he said. “But we’re always looking to improve and that’s the reason I am coming on board. I am still a professional cricketer and I’ve a contract with Durham next year but I can venture into this kind of thing in the winter months and I see it as a great opportunity.
“I’ve played alongside Kyle Coetzer, the Scotland captain, at Durham and I’ve played against most of the guys but don’t really know them in person or as cricketers. I’ll have to learn quickly and we’ll have a couple of camps before the T20 qualifiers in Dubai, where I will have a chance to do that.”
Quizzed on the extent of his actual coaching experience, the 37-year-old said: “I guess that actually playing cricket for a living is a form of coaching in itself. We do help each other out a lot, as team-mates, without actually having the tag of coach. Look, it’s a great opportunity for me and it’s great for both parties, I think.
“For me, it’s about getting used to the tag of coach and getting my teeth into a challenge. We all want to qualify for the World Cup so it’s a very exciting venture and something that I hope I can help out with.”
Wright, who as youth performance director has turned Scotland’s under-19s into perennial World Cup qualifiers, will add his own considerable presence to the role of bowling coach as Steindl launches his push to bring an element of success to his tenure, which has run almost six years.
Steindl said: “Leading into two vital qualifying events, I was very keen to change things up a bit, add a couple of new voices to the coaching team and bring in coaches who had attained success at the very highest levels of the game.”