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Ashes 2021/22

Paul Collingwood hits out at Australia’s refusal to compromise on Ashes schedule for ‘mentally fatigued’ England

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Paul Collingwood has said that Australia were “not bothered” by England’s fatigue levels heading into the Ashes, and despite the 4-0 loss, the visitors deserve “medals, not criticism” for their efforts in ensuring the series went ahead.

The Joe Root-led Test team are in the firing line for a dismal showing Down Under, putting in lacklustre performances in all departments through the five Ashes Tests. Assistant coach Collingwood, however, has come out in defence of his troops, saying that the hosts failed to compromise, putting England through a rigorous quarantine, and with inclement weather allowing them just two full days of practice heading into the first match at The Gabba.

Speaking to reporters from the Caribbean, where he is acting as head coach in Chris Silverwood’s absence, the former England cricketer said, “I reckon if you had given us the best England cricketers in the Ashes from the last 100 years and put them in the same environment that those boys have lived in over the past two years with the preparation that we had going into this Ashes even they wouldn’t have had a chance.”

The England team had a tough summer in bio-bubbles, with The Hundred followed by four Tests against India. The members of the white-ball team regrouped in the UAE for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, following which they flew to Australia, where they underwent quarantine for a fortnight ahead of the first Test.

England were criticised for a string of selection decisions in the recent tour, but while Collingwood accepted that the visitors made errors, he also added that the side should be credited for “even going.”

“Yes, we made mistakes, 100%. We made selection mistakes, we made toss mistakes, but the fact we actually turned up and agreed to a five-match Ashes series, the guys should be given medals for that. It would’ve been much better if we’d done two matches and then three next year. That would’ve been a great compromise.

“But no, Australia were not bothered that they were going to receive an England team who were mentally fatigued, they just wanted to get the product out there. They just wanted the Ashes. These guys deserve medals, not criticism. They should be told ‘well done’ for even going. It’s the equivalent of the England football team being asked to go to a World Cup, then from that bubble into the Euros. Would you expect a performance from that scenario? It’s ludicrous.”

Collingwood said that the impact of bio-bubbles on players’ mental health is tough to convey, and is something that “scares” him.

“I don’t think people have understood the impact and the effects that these bubbles have had,” Collingwood said. “Going to the Ashes off the back of a tough bubble in Dubai, I think was literally one step too far. You can’t even explain what it’s like until you experience it. The simple fact is you cannot walk out of your front door and as soon as you’re told that you cannot do something as simple as going for a coffee, and you are penned in with the same guys. A lot of people will say ‘that must be fun’ and ‘you’ve got a lovely hotel’ [but] it hits you.

“Take someone like Chris Woakes, the most loveable and down-to-earth guy. I have seen him in some serious mental states. We have seen Ben Stokes, someone we consider to be the most mentally tough cricketer in the world, being hit by this. I just hope there are no ramifications moving forward because when they come, they won’t be obvious next week or the week after. These are things that might come out down the line. That’s what scares me.”

Collingwood worried that it might be “too late” to reverse the damage done.

“I almost think it is too late to get these messages across,” he said. “These sorts of things should have been brought out in the middle of last summer. We saw the signs then when boys were fading, and it is not healthy for the game. This isn’t just us. We have obviously played the most amount of cricket, but it will catch up with other teams as well.”

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