PAUL COLLINGWOOD

There was a definite buzz around the Riverside on the day it was revealed that Paul Collingwood had been called up to the One-Day International squad for the NatWest series with Australia and Pakistan.

But no-one was buzzing more than Collingwood himself, as a lifetime ambition had been fulfilled - an ambition which was appearing increasingly fanciful as one of the most talented young players in the English who failed to reach his potential until now.

Collingwood's own opinion of his personal County cricket statistics are unprintable but he's ready to put them behind him as his century-filled early season form takes him to the brink of his first international appearance.

Asked for the reasons behind his stunning transformation from talented also-ran to potential household name, Collingwood points to a successful winter playing Grade cricket in Melbourne for Richmond, where he lined up alongside the likes of Paul Reiffel, the Australian seam ace. "I played there for six months and won the Ryder Medal which is awarded to the league's player of the season. A 'pom' winning the award is quite an accolade and it gave me great confidence for the start of the season. The wickets were very flat out there and that helped develop my technique."

During his time in charge at Durham, Aussie legend David Boon told Collingwood that the game was 80 per cent mental and 20 per cent technique, and that message has finally hit home. He continued: "Boonie did a lot for the young lads here. When he came we were a very young county and didn't really know much about first class cricket. We had a lot of talented local lads but were lacking in confidence; deep down a lot us didn't really believe we should be out there. David changed our attitudes."

Despite the good influence of Boon, Collingwood still wasn't performing as well as his ability demanded, even last season. "My ambitions were to play for England but you can't average 26 in the first class game and expect to get picked. But my time in Melbourne helped me take a different outlook as to how I approached the game. The Aussies set themselves high standards, the players there know that if they fail there's somebody waiting in the wings to replace them. They take every game very seriously and play each innings as if it was the last - that's what I'm trying to do now."

Collingwood has already had a taste of international cricket - he spent three days as twelfth man in the test against West Indies at Old Trafford last year. "I absolutely loved it," he recalled. "It gave me a taste of the big stage and I wanted to be a part of it."

England's newest recruit has a healthy respect for what the England team has achieved at Test level in recent series, picking out the passion of Gough, the captaincy of Hussain and the batting of Thorpe as three vital factors in the sustained winning run. "You could go all way through and praise everybody involved with the team; they have all done their bit to raise the standard."

Whilst not getting carried away, Collingwood is already eyeing a place on a winter tour. He knows his talent should have seen him being selected for an 'A' tour in previous years but the figures just weren't there to back him up. He said: "To go on an England tour would be massive, it's what I've been wanting for the past five years. If I can continue the form I've shown so far this season, I've got a good shout."

England recognition has been the ultimate goal for Collingwood as a player but he still has big ambitions to help the county club that has shown so much faith in him to win a domestic competition sooner rather than later. Promotion in the County Championship and Norwich Union leagues is the priority for this season but Collingwood believes that one-day cup glory may not be too far away: "We are growing in confidence as a team and we've now made the quarter-finals of the B&H in the last four years. I feel sure that in a couple of years' time we can make the big step and win a competition at Lords."


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