Paul Collingwood has steered Durham cricket through difficult waters this summer

PUBLISHED: 18:47 11 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:04 20 February 2013

Paul Collingwood has steered Durham cricket through difficult waters this summer

Paul Collingwood has steered Durham cricket through difficult waters this summer

Paul Collingwood has steered Durham cricket through difficult waters this summer, as Roger Tames reports

Durham County Cricket Club has always been about local talent. The pioneers who launched the club into the first class game 20 years ago had been motivated by providing an opportunity to develop the local players they always believed the North East could produce.

So its only fitting that the clubs most difficult season for some years should have been salvaged by the most successful cricketer the club has ever produced.

A few decades ago, Paul Collingwood would undoubtedly have been obliged to take his talents elsewhere if his sporting career was to progress, rather like one of Durhams earlier favourite sons Colin Milburn whose England career flourished courtesy of Northampton.

This season, the all-rounder from Shotley Bridge returned to the Durham fold after calling time on an international career that peaked with him captaining Englands Twenty20 team to a first cricketing World Cup.

What he could never expected after five seasons where the twice county champions have been constantly competing for the top honours, was to find himself in the middle of a relegation fight.

Once he agreed to take over the captaincy from the hugely popular Phil Mustard with Durham winless in mid season, the transformation in the teams fortunes was almost instantaneous.

Four victories in a row had the county new boys breathing more easily as the serious threat to their First Division status subsided. Collingwood found himself as a reluctant but very determined hero.

Ive never been desperate to be a captain; in fact I never really enjoyed it with England, to be honest, confessed the batsman who earned a reputation for being at his best with his back against the wall.

It came at a time in my career where I probably needed a new challenge myself. If I can take a team forward, put values into place and a team ethos that will last five or ten years down the line, then Im happy to take on that kind of challenge.

Its been very exciting since Ive taken it on. I really have enjoyed it. The great thing was that we had good results straight away which doesnt usually happen. Captaincy is a lot easier when youre winning.

Collingwood is a typical self-contradictory sportsman. Slightly built, with a cheerful, friendly manner, on the pitch he seems able to transform himself into a bit of a streetfighter, ready even to sledge away verbally with the best (or worst) of the Aussies.

When it comes to playing cricket, hes obviously not there to mess about. Fellow local hero Steve Harmison and former Player of the Year Ian Blackwell found themselves out on loan. Durham were not going down on his watch without a fight. In fact, they were not going down at all.

I wanted us to be hard to beat, he explained. Unfortunately in the early part of the season we were probably too easy to beat. You need to have that determination and drive to beat the opposition.

Weve got too many good players to be in a relegation fight but thats exactly where we were. Thankfully weve had the character and the skill levels to get us out of that situation. We just desperately needed that first win.

With Andrew Strauss the latest England captain to join the likes of Nasser Hussain, Michael Atherton and Michael Vaughan in retiring completely from the game after England duty, 36-year-old Collingwood is relishing the two years left on his county contract.

Im really excited about the next couple of years hopefully leading the team, bringing the guys on, Englands most capped one-day cricketer added. The future is really bright especially with some of the youngsters coming through from the academy.

We need to make sure the standards that we keep are very high, thats crucial for the club going forward. We know weve got the skills and the personnel to win silverware. But it never comes easily.

That wont bother Collingwood.

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