Thursday, January 06, 2011

For Paul Collingwood

One of the many journalistic conventions at the end of a Test series (and this one is virtually finished) is to make up a composite ‘dream team’ XI of the best players from each side. Such has been the superiority of England in this gloriously unprecedented annihilation of the greatest cricket nation, that there won’t be any debate for these Ashes: it’ll be the England’s line-up for the last two matches, except Paul Collingwood will be replaced by Mike Hussey.

Paul Collingwood is the only England batsman not to have made a significant score, in a series in which batting records have been regularly smashed. But such has been the English superiority that it hasn’t made a jot of difference to the outcome. Colly’s trusty dibbly-dobblers and exceptional catching (surely only South Africa’s AB De Villiers can rival him as a fielder in international cricket?) have been much more useful to the team than a stack of runs would have been.

Anyway, this always-admirable man has timed his retirement perfectly, and his interviews have been terrific: modest and honest. "I knew this was probably going to be my last innings. I was hoping it was going to be a fairytale story and I'd go out there an crack a hundred, but I don't have fairytales."

As I’ve noted many times before, cricket – and specifically Test batting - is the one sport that, above all others, reflects life and death. All the analogies work: you live on a knife edge, the end could come at any moment through any arbitrary twist of fate; you can be cut down in your prime or have a good innings.

Sporting careers are likewise – absurdly short, and suddenly there, in your mid-30s, the glory years of your life gone. Colly is one of the lucky few afforded the greatest gift international sport can offer: the opportunity to choose the moment of his own End. Most are pushed long before they have the chance to jump. Collingwood – a true-grit Englishman - has fallen on his sword at precisely the right moment.

So long, Colly, Think of England salutes you. See you in the interminable, anti-climactic one-dayers.


Uncle Stan Madeley said...

Nice summary. It was like watching a man go through his death throes at the crease the other night.

Brit said...

Well that didn't take long.