England has been ICC Cricket World Cup underachievers: Paul Collingwood


The only England captain to lift an ICC trophy, Paul Collingwood is his country’s most capped ODI player (197 matches) as well as most successful batsman (5,092 runs) to date. He captained England in 25 ODIs between 2007-2009, winning 11 and losing 12. Collingwood played in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 World Cups, scoring 474 runs and taking 8 wickets. An athletic and agile fielder, Collingwood took 108 catches, including 13 in three World Cups. He is now part of the Scotland team coaching staff.

Paul Collingwood

The one key thing we have done consistently is play conservative cricket, but that approach won’t win you anything.

For the talent that we’ve had, you have to say England has underachieved in the last five ICC World Cricket Cups. It’s really hard to pinpoint what it has been that has made us underperform but, having reached two semi-finals and three finals in the first five ICC Cricket World Cups and not doing anything like that in the last five, it’s something we have to face.

There are lots of reasons for it but the one key thing we’ve done consistently is play ‘normal’ cricket and when I say that I mean conservative cricket. If you haven’t got some kind of mystery spin or extreme pace or anything like that, then you’ve got to try something different.

In the past, Sri Lanka won a World Cup by coming out and doing something completely different that took everybody by surprise. But whenever I’ve been with England, everything had to go perfectly well for us to beat the top sides consistently.

The top of the order has always been an important part of the game as well, especially when it was 15 overs of Powerplays, and we went over a 10-year period where we were chopping and changing that top order.

You want to have aggressive players but it’s very hard and tough to do that in English conditions. We wanted to go down that line but because we play in England every summer it always came around that we weren’t that successful with that strategy so we always resort back.

We’d tinker with it and then go back to ‘normal’ players all the time instead of picking one strategy.

I played in the last three ICC Cricket World Cups and I never felt we were never really that close to really doing something if I’m totally honest. It’s a disappointing thing to say but we had to have everything going our way to beat the best sides.

You only have to look at Australia. They were always a settled team which knew its roles, whereas we were going into a tournament unsure of what our best line-up was. There have been so many World Cups where we’ve been wondering what our best team is.

Australia knew what the best team was and because of that their roles were always refined and defined and they knew what each other had to do. There was no rocket science about it and they just had better match-winners.

I always had a feeling we were playing catch-up and we would always follow someone’s lead. If another team was doing something, we would try it but we were never the ones to try something different first and have other teams follow us.

You can say in the ICC World Twenty20 2010 West Indies, we did something different for the first time and it worked.

But we don’t get a brand of cricket early on and think ‘right we’re going to stick with this and this is how we’re going to play’ and it just tends to be done at the last minute all the time.

It is a frustration. Obviously there have been different coaches so that hasn’t been consistent and everyone will have different ideas but surely the lessons that have been learnt from the only World Cup we’ve ever won.

We did something completely different. We weren’t afraid of failing and that should be a lesson in itself. I hate that word ‘conservative’ because in my eyes, you might win the odd game but you won’t win anything by being conservative. To get to a semi-final or a final you have to be quite bold.

The ICC Cricket World Cups were tough because we always came in off the back end of an Ashes series. You’re already drained by the time you’re going in. You’ve been touring Australia for four months, you get a 10-day break and you’re across to a World Cup.

We took confidence from beating Australia in the Tri-series in 2007 but you’re going into a World Cup and it felt like another series and that’s not how it should feel. You should be mentally fresh for a World Cup and that’s why they’ve changed the fixtures around now.

The game of ODI cricket has improved massively in the past five years, never mind 10 or 20 years. You’ve got to be up or ahead of the times. Batting and fielding has improved at a rate that bowling hasn’t been able to keep up.

The Twenty20 game has opened the spectrum in terms of what can be chased down, the skill levels with the bat, hitting ‘yorkers’ and the power and totally unorthodox shots.

The game has gone through the roof in terms of entertainment and what can be achieved. Until you know what can be achieved the game can’t move forward and the introduction of Twenty20 really progressed that at a rate of knots.

I think we’ve got better one-day players now than we ever have. I’ll be honest, I put myself into that equation as well. The players now, I watch what they can do in county cricket and they’re serious talents but you’ve got to have the right approach to get the best out of these players.

It’s a by-product of Twenty20 but they’ve learnt Twenty20 very quickly and have grown up with it from an early age, practising these skills. We had to try to learn Twenty20 cricket as our careers were going on so you have very limited time to practice new skills and techniques.

The best Twenty20 cricketers are the new youngsters coming through who have been playing like this from an early age and they have a wow factor about them.  That’s the way the game’s going.

If you could have the likes of Moeen Ali, Alex Hales, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara, you’re looking at a line-up that makes you think ‘wow’ and that if they play to the best of their ability, they’re going to cause serious problems.

Of course we should have done better. We’ve had good enough players to win things. Courtesy ICC