Paul Collingwood © Getty Images
Paul Collingwood © Getty Images

Paul Collingwood, born May 26, 1976, was England’s leading ODI run-scorer and captain of the 2010 T20 World Cup-winning team. Jaideep Vaidya goes through the career of the happy-go-lucky all-rounder who was regarded one of the best fielders in the world in his prime.

Paul Collingwood isn’t a remarkable player by a long shot. An all-rounder by trade, he isn’t an awe-inspiring batsman, and neither is he the best of medium-pace bowlers. To be fair to him, he is one of the best fielders in the world, but all these qualities still do not warrant him as many accolades as some of his other mates and compatriots, right? Perhaps not. But Collingwood has a knack of getting the job done by chipping in innocuously here and there and was regarded an inspiring captain. He is the first England skipper to win a World Cup — even if it was the Twenty20 version.

As a batsman, Collingwood isn’t the most flamboyant and stylish strokers around, but he has this delicate way of swishing his blade around that still makes it look graceful. The way he carefully cuts the ball, you feel it’s a surgeon at work with his knife, vigilantly manoeuvring himself around with exquisite dabs and touches. He’s done decently well to score 4,259 runs in 68 Tests at 40.56, including 10 centuries. In One-Day Internationals (ODIs), he’s scored 5,092 runs in 197 matches at 35.36, including 5 hundreds and 26 half-centuries. Not bad for a so-so middle-order batsman, right?

As a bowler, Collingwood was used as filler in the middle overs to give the strike bowlers a breather. However, that didn’t stop him from taking 6 for 31 in an ODI once. While we’re on that, Collingwood had scored a hundred in that game too, against Bangladesh at Trent Bridge, making him the first player in the world to score a century and take 6 wickets in one match. Collingwood beat the previous record of a century and 5 wickets in a match, set by a certain Viv Richards.

Around that time in mid-2005, Collingwood took this catch to show his fielding abilities (do not miss Matthew Hayden‘s expression):

Collingwood started playing professionally for the Durham county in the mid-90s and made his First-Class debut in 1996. In four years, he was voted Player of the Year for the county, and in 2001, his efforts eventually won him an England call-up for the triangular series at home featuring Pakistan and Australia.

Collingwood had an inauspicious start to his England career, managing scores of 2, 9, 0 and 9 in the series and not doing so well with the ball either. It took a tour of Zimbabwe to finally show his true colours as he went on to score two half-centuries and helped England secure a whitewash. This was followed by a longer drought as Collingwood struggled to find his bearings in tours to India and New Zealand, before eventually scoring his first century against Sri Lanka Down Under in 2002-03.

Collingwood’s actual Test debut came in 2003 in Galle against the Lankans, but he would like to tell his grandchildren that it was during the 2005 Ashes. He had struggled to keep a regular spot in the side until the Aussies visited England for what would turn out to be a memorable series.

Even here, Collingwood did not get a chance to feature right until the last Test at The Oval, and that too because Simon Jones was out injured. England just needed a draw to secure a historic 2-1 win and Collingwood helped out with a frustrating 60-run sixth-wicket partnership with Kevin Pietersen on the final day as he must have made the Australians want to tear their hair out with his continuous, relentless blocking.

As England successfully drew the match and clinched The Ashes, Collingwood, along with the rest of the team, was awarded an MBE, after scoring 7 and 10 in the game — a highlight which caught the fancy of Shane Warne who ridiculed him during the next Ashes series Down Under in 2006-07. While bowling to Collingwood, Warne was caught on the stump mic saying, “You got an MBE, right? For scoring 7 at The Oval?”

In the 2006 tour of India, Collingwood became the first player from Durham to score a Test century. This prompted The Times, who had teamed up with Warne in its assessment of Collingwood’s MBE, to print the headline: “MBE? Give this man a knighthood!”

However, the defining tour of Collingwood’s career came during England’s Ashes trip in the Australian summer of 2006-07. Even though the Test series turned out to be a miserable outing for England, who were humiliated 0-5, the only bright spot in their report card was Collingwood, who scored a career-best 206 at Adelaide and shared a 310-run fourth-wicket partnership with Pietersen again. Collingwood thus became only the eighth English double-centurion against Australia and the first since Wally Hammond in 1928-29. In the second innings at Adelaide, Collingwood gave Australia another dose of his blocking and persisted with 22 from 119 balls, but could not prevent England from collapsing to 129, thereby giving the Aussies a 2-0 lead.

In the triangular one-day series that followed, Collingwood was again the rock as England took revenge of their Test series defeat by beating Australia twice in the best-of-three finals. Collingwood, who was coming into the first final at MCG on the back of a match-winning century against New Zealand in the last league match, walked in to bat with England reeling at 15 for 3, chasing 253.

Along with Ian Bell (65) and captain Andrew Flintoff (35) later, Collingwood helped England recover and remained unbeaten on 120 as they crossed the line with 3 balls to spare. In the second final at SCG, Collingwood again top-scored with 70 as England went on to win the match and series by 34 runs via the Duckworth-Lewis method.

Collingwood was rewarded for his heroics by being chosen as Wisden Cricketer of the Year. Wisden described him as having become the embodiment of “the sort of cricketer who not only made the most of his ability but was also determined to keep getting better.”

He was further to be rewarded with the England ODI and T20 captaincy after Michael Vaughan‘s resignation from the two formats following the team’s dismal showing at the 2007 World Cup. The then 31-year-old Collingwood told the BBC: “It is an amazing feeling for me, a great honour. I’ll have to learn the ropes as I go along but one thing is for sure, I want the players to express themselves and to be positive and aggressive.”

However, he relinquished the ODI captaincy after only a year in charge, as he felt it affected his form. Even though England recorded impressive series victories at home against India and in Sri Lanka, they lost both home and away to New Zealand. Collingwood failed to score a single ODI century in 2008, describing it as “the worst year in my career”, before eventually deciding to give up captaincy in the format. “I’ve found the extra workload to be very difficult,” he said. “I feel the captaincy diminished my ability to perform for England across all forms of the game.”

Collingwood continued to lead the T20 side — a stint which reached its pinnacle when England clinched the World Cup in 2010, which was the first time they had ever won a global ICC event. Even though Collingwood failed to impress with bat and ball, he hit the winning runs in the final against Australia and his captaincy was praised by the media and pundits all over.

Mediocre form in the longer format throughout 2009 and 2010 led him to announce his retirement from Tests after the 2010-11 Ashes, which England won 3-1 Down Under. “I’m very satisfied with the contributions over my Test career,” said Collingwood, as quoted by the Herald Sun. “It must not have been easy for people to watch at times, but I fought hard and gave my all.” Even old foe Warne had words of praise for Collingwood’s selfless Test exit: “Paul Collingwood has been a wonderful contributor to English cricket. I wish him well for the future. I still think making 17 runs in one Test doesn’t warrant an MBE, but I suppose I should let it go.”

Collingwood still continues to be available for England in the two shorter formats, although he last played for the national team back in 2011. If he does decide to end his international career, he will go out as England’s leading run-scorer in ODIs with 5,092.

(Jaideep Vaidya is a multiple sports buff and a writer at CricketCountry. He has a B.E. in Electronics Engineering, but that isn’t fooling anybody. He started writing on sports during his engineering course and fell in love with it. The best day of his life came on April 24, 1998, when he witnessed birthday boy Sachin Tendulkar pummel a Shane Warne-speared Aussie attack from the stands during the Sharjah Cup Final. A diehard Manchester United fan, you can follow him on Twitter @jaideepvaidya. He also writes a sports blog – The Mullygrubber)