Paul Collingwood lends T20 expertise to Scots’ World Cup bid

SOMETIMES, supply and demand coincide perfectly. Paul Collingwood had been pondering what might follow when he opts to lay down his bat for good, an inevitable contemplation for a 37-year-old who had already been able to walk away from international cricket largely on his own terms.

Paul Collingwood during his first training session with the Scotland squad in Edinburgh. Picture: Donald MacLeod

A summons to the broadcast booth will surely arrive if, as he has strongly hinted, he opts for retirement next autumn at the end of what will be his 19th season with Durham.

Coaching, however, always seemed a natural next move for someone who has proven expert at squeezing the very most out of reserves of talent.

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Simultaneously, Scotland were creating a vacancy in their own backroom staff for this winter, an intense but vital spell which begins today when they fly out to Sri Lanka on tour, a short period of acclimatisation for the immediate business at hand, next month’s qualifiers for the 2014 World Twenty20.

Pete Steindl’s brief was simple. “Someone from the outside with experience,” the coach revealed, “who could act as a mentor to the group, and also come at things from a slightly different angle.”

An approach to the preferred candidate was made, and swiftly accepted. And, after a three-day boot camp in the Highlands to better acquaint himself with his new colleagues, Collingwood has left his wife and three daughters behind for the next six weeks to begin a fresh chapter. “It’s a great challenge for myself,” declared the three-time Ashes victor.

“This is my first coaching role. But, when you’re playing, throughout your career, they always say your best coaches are your peers, the guys you’re playing with. You give advice anyway. And, in the last couple of years, with captaining Durham I’ve probably felt more a coaching player than a captain player.”

His skills in the latter role appeared undiminished this summer when he led Durham to their third county championship in six seasons, a small payback for a decade when he was a frequent absentee from The Riverside as England duties took precedence.

As noted by Geoff Cook, his long-time coach at Chester-le-Street, the local boy was not among those pre-destined to rise to the top. He had to work at his craft, achieve consistency through application, and develop the kind of resilience required to cope with the most ferocious of pressure.

“In terms of being technically correct, he wasn’t that kind of player,” said Collingwood’s former county colleague Kyle Coetzer, who also happens to be the current Scotland captain.

“He knows what he can do, he’s very leg-sided, he played square of the wicket. He figures out his game.”

Coetzer is well aware of how his side, most still inexperienced internationally, must become more adept at turning their own flaws into positives.

“I’m hope our guys just spend time talking to him,” he added. “There’s all that knowledge to take on board.”

Collingwood will have ample time to share insights, as will Craig Wright, the former Scotland skipper who has also been brought on board on the coaching side.

In Sri Lanka, a series of Twenty20 warm-ups are planned, both against local clubs and Canada who have also set up a pre-tournament base on the island.

Restoring some of the confidence lost during a brutal summer is high on the agenda. Those involved in a disastrous domestic campaign in the Pro40 bear scars but those who took part in the internationals against Australia were similarly wounded. With the qualifiers in the UAE just 16 days away, a speedy injection of self-belief would do no harm.

The importance of the event, Collingwood added, should not become a debilitating burden.

“If you can prepare them in a way that they feel very relaxed when they’re in the middle and almost take the pressure off the guys, then you tend to play your best cricket in that manner. Enjoyment is a key factor in playing well.”

Collingwood’s eye for technique will have its place. But not too much, he insisted. ”I’m a guy who focussed more on the mental side of things, going out there with as much confidence as possible and concentrating on your strengths. That’s pretty much been my motto throughout my career. If I can get them in that frame of mind, I’ve done my job.”

While Sir Alex Ferguson might have baulked at crossing the Auld Enemy divide, the man who lifted the World Twenty20 trophy with England just three years ago, left, has no reservations.

“Kyle has asked us to bring the Scotland flag and wear the kilt,” he smiles. “I’ll have to get out to the shops and get one.”

So, an opportunity that came unexpectedly is to be fully embraced.

“This tournament’s not about me, it’s about these guys going out and performing. I get satisfaction from watching guys develop and seeing them cope with the battle.”