Watching England warm up today, there was a overriding feeling that something was missing.
It was an eager Labrador of a player, whose spindly legs invariably protrude from a pair of shorts as he bats, bowls and fields with the sprightliness of someone 10 years younger, encourages players in his Geordie twang and makes the odd self-deprecating remark to a passing hack. I am talking of course of Paul Collingwood.Collingwood is the heart and soul of the England team, someone for whom nothing is too much trouble, who will stoically bowl in the nets when all the other players have dragged their enormous kit bags back to the dressing room, and linger afterwards for extra slip catching practice to the slow bowlers or a bit of throwing at a stump. He is never knowingly underprepared.
That is why it is right to give him a rest for this match and presumably series. He has nothing to prove and quite a lot to lose. His body is willing but his mind will be running on empty. After the exertions of the last 12 months, he will have been existing on adrenalin during the world T20. Now back in the real world he will need the nourishment of a bit of time off to rejuvenate his cricketing appetite.
There will be those who say that a month of his exertion was spent in sole self-advancement at the IPL. But his time in India wasn´t without benefit for England. He spoke before he went of the positive influences and sharing of ideas that involvement in the IPL brings, and the development of a different mindset it imbues. In short it banishes fearlessness, which, in a T20 match, translates as not worrying about losing your wicket. It was the hallmark of England´s approach and the reason they won their first world title. Keeping the scoreboard moving was more important than keeping your wicket intact. It´s a big step for naturally cautious, technique-obsessed English players to take. As a result of Collingwood, and Andy Flower´s input, they took it and it paid off. Even Kevin Pietersen reaped the benefit.