The handshakes with his team mates at the end of Durham’s victory over Sussex at Emirates Riverside on Wednesday said it all: Paul Collingwood, the former England batsman, has decided to end his first-class career at 42.
Collingwood will not be short of coaching offers. He has already worked with England as a fielding coach and there is bound to be interest in Scotland, where he has already worked extensively and where Grant Bradburn, a 52-year-old New Zealander, resigned a week ago to become Pakistan’s fielding coach.
It has taken a while for coaching opportunities to prise out Collingwood from the middle. More than seven years after the end of his England career, he retires with quite a record: he has represented the club in 23 of their 26 years in professional cricket and has amassed 304 first-class appearances, 16844 runs and 164 wickets.
In common with Marcus Trescothick at Somerset, he grew into one of the grand old stagers of the county circuit, communicating that England’s professional circuit remained a place where international stars who had known the best could still find satisfaction.
“After much thought and deliberation, I have decided to announce my retirement from cricket at the end of the current season,” Collingwood said.
“I knew this day would eventually come but it hasn’t made it any easier – although it’s an emotional decision, I know that the time is right and I’m comfortable knowing that I have given every last ounce of energy to the sport.
“I have achieved so much with both Durham and England; far more than I ever imagined and I feel extremely privileged to have had such a long and rewarding career. I am excited about what the future holds for me and am looking forward to new challenges.”
Last season, aged 41, Collingwood capped an incredible season with three awards at Durham’s 2017 Player of the Year Dinner, including Player of the Year, Players Player of the Year and Batsman of the Year. He also recorded the Club’s first T20 Blast century against Worcestershire. Earlier this year, the all-rounder’s contribution to the club was marked with the naming of the Paul Collingwood Pavilion.
His fitness record was exemplary, too – it needed to be as Durham approached Twenty20 as a fast-running game, keeping the boundaries at the Riverside bigger than many. But this season has been tough – his 47 against Sussex was his highest Championship score of the season, but it was a vital contribution nonetheless and – if he stands down immediately – it helped him see out his career with victory.
If the prospect of more coaching opportunities with England and Scotand has arisen, it is neatly timed.
Collingwood, a three-times Ashes winner, played 68 Test matches for England, scoring 4,259 runs at an average of over 40 and produced a number of outstanding performances, scoring a memorable double century during the 2006/07 Ashes series in Australia.
He became the first England captain to deliver at a global tournament when England beat Australia to win the 2010 World Twenty20. A year later, he was gone, his decision to retire from Test cricket after an Ashes thrashing in Australia quickly leading to his removal as T20 captain.
He observed soon afterwards: “When you’re out of the England team you get forgotten very quickly.” Even then he was musing about coaching, but instead he deepened his respect at Durham, the granite-like batsman, productive rather than attractive, whose upbringing in Consett, an old steelworks town, had taught him from the outset that life did not owe him a living.
He went on to lift the 2013 County Championship title with Durham and also played a significant role in the club’s Royal London One-Day Cup victory at Lord’s a year later. When the ECB had to bale out Durham financially, and relegated them as a lesson to others, he called it “brutal” and was driven by a deep sense of hurt; there was no way he would retire then.
But retire now he has, leaving Durham’s chairman Sir Ian Botham, to bang the drum, claiming: “Paul is one of the greatest all-rounders to ever grace the game of cricket and to have him playing at Durham, his home county, for all these years has been an absolute privilege.
“Both on and off the field he has class, intelligence and charm and it is a testament to his incredible commitment and work ethic that he has been able to compete at the top level for the amount of time that he has. Colly is Mr Durham and it will be very strange without him.”
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.