x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Collingwood: a reluctant captain triumphs

There have probably been less likely World Cup-winning captains in sport than Paul Collingwood - but not many.

There have probably been less likely World Cup-winning captains in sport than Paul Collingwood - but not many. In the space of 11 months, he has gone from the man who oversaw the biggest upset in English cricket history, when they lost at Lord's to the part-timers from Holland, to the man who masterminded England's first every trophy at world level.

Quite how the transformation came about is unclear. After their home World Twenty20 last summer, when England flounced out with the typical whimper, Collingwood had lost the confidence of his players - and that included himself. He has always been an unwilling captain, yet the armband has kept finding its way into his kitbag. He had intimated that he did not want to do it as far back as the first World T20, in South Africa in 2007.

The Durham all-rounder was happy to relinquish the responsibility in 2008, when it meant Kevin Pietersen could unify the role across both the Test and limited-overs game. When the Pietersen reign quickly soured, Collingwood was convinced to fill in again, despite his own reservations. Yet it has still always felt as though he is in caretaker charge. So what brought about the turn around in fortune in the West Indies? Why did he triumph where noted captaincy titans such as Mike Brearley in 1979, Mike Gatting in 1987 and Graham Gooch in 1992 failed, and lead England to a world title?

Importantly, Collingwood had a team laced with self-starters at his disposal. Four of the most influential game-changers in this England side are overseas-born players. As such, each of the three South Africans, Craig Kieswetter, Michael Lumb and Pietersen will always feel they have a point to prove while they play for their adopted nation. They all succeeded richly in the West Indies, as did Eoin Morgan, the nerveless Irishman who has established himself as England's safety cog at No 5.

Even Michael Yardy, the left-arm, left-field, selection bolter, took care of himself. Yardy was not even considering an England recall when he arrived in Dubai here for the Emirates Airline T20 earlier this year. Three months later, he is a world champion. As Andy Flower, the team director, puts it, Yardy is an "internal leader". Past that, Collingwood was allowed to keep to a game-plan which worked. So rigid was England's method, Plan B was only invoked for the first time in the tournament halfway through the final, when the Hussey brothers, Michael and David, looked to be wrestling back initiative for Australia.

Even that turned to gold: Luke Wright, whose bowling represented said Plan B, applying the breaks in his solitary over of the competition. When Collingwood said he hopes this is the first of two World Cup wins, the Sunderland fan was talking about England's footballing colleagues in South Africa this summer. Yet he may get his own chance to double up, as he could well still be in charge the next time the World T20 comes around. After so long spent trying to get rid of the armband, it looks like it is finally starting to fit.