Thursday, September 28

Paul Collingwood backs ‘hungry’ Joe Root to turn England’s fortunes around | england cricket team

Joe Root’s continuation as England Test captain may be in part down to a lack of alternatives but as the team flew to Barbados on Saturday, their interim head coach, Paul Collingwood, spoke of a “real unity” being formed under the Yorkshireman.

These are early days in the post-Ashes rebuild and a drawn first Test against West Indies on a lifeless Antiguan pitch is not cause to bring out the bunting. Nevertheless, after an early wobble England were enterprising, energetic and batters banked some previously elusive runs with centuries for Root, Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow.

Collingwood, holding the fort until a new director of cricket and head coach are appointed by the England and Wales Cricket Board, is modest about his own prospects for the second of those two vacancies. However, he sees a team playing for a captain who, though a record 62 Tests into the job, retains a strong desire to lead.

“You can sense that he’s got everybody behind him,” Collingwood said. “There’s a real unity. We’ve got a direction, we’ve got clarity, we were very honest with our conversations at the start of the tour and he looks as though he’s enjoying his cricket.

“I really believe he can turn this team around. It’d be great if this was the backbone for many years. They’ve got the chance to be together for a lot of years and there are a lot of young players in there. I’m sure Joe would love to be captain for that.”

Though eight players were dropped after the Ashes, the fact that two still merited retention on performance – Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad – has led some to speculate whether their presence somehow diminished Root’s authority or the environment, either in the dressing room or out on the field. Collingwood looked to dismiss the notion: “That’s really unfair to say that having those personalities there, Stuart and Jimmy, would make any difference.

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“The way [Root] has gone about his business right from ball one here in Antigua has been excellent. He’s committed, he’s determined, he’s very hungry to turn things round. No matter the personalities in the team, he’ll have that same attitude.”

Paul Collingwood says he is ‘not thinking too far ahead’ when it comes to the full-time role of England head coach. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

There is a quick turnaround before the second Test starts in Bridgetown on Wednesday but one change appears a given after Mark Wood’s right elbow problem – described as “an impingement” by Collingwood – materialized mid-match.

Collingwood was more upbeat about Ollie Robinson’s hopes of a return, with the 6ft 5in right-armer “getting the ball through really well” out in the middle between sessions. The back spasms that ruled him out of the match – and dogged his previous outing in Hobart – mean further fitness tests are required this week.

A seam attack of Chris Woakes, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes and Wood that collectively sent down 139 overs for seven wickets at 47 runs a piece may require further refreshment, however. Saqib Mahmood and Matt Fisher, both of whom are uncapped, should also look to push their claims in the nets at the Kensington Oval.

The thunder of Stokes notwithstanding, Jack Leach was the pick in Antigua, sending down 34 maidens from his 73.4 overs and claiming five wickets. The left-armer’s final tally might have been greater but for finding himself the wrong side of three umpire’s calls and Root’s failure to review an lbw shout against Jason Holder on the final day.

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Collingwood believes Leach is growing as a voice in the setup and, more broadly, wants the team to use Antigua as just the start. “We want to keep that as the benchmark,” said the former all-rounder. “Our fielding, our ground-fielding was superb, our energy, our fitness levels, that’s a good sign of where a team is.

“The boys kept plugging away. Great signs but it’s 0-0 and we need to turn up in Barbados with the same attitude and character, and desire – all the things that win you Test matches. [With] that performance level, we’ve given ourselves a good chance.”

Asked about the prospect of making his own role permanent, be it head coach or in charge of the white-ball setup if the role is split, Collingwood replied: “The simple fact is I haven’t experience in either. But look at it that way [and] you’ll never get a head coach role. I’m just looking to get through these games, not thinking too far ahead.”

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