Paul Collingwood spoke to All Out Cricket's Jo Harman about Scotland’s victorious World Cup qualifying campaign.
Paul, congratulations on helping Scotland qualify for next year’s World Cup. How proud are you of what you and the team have been able to achieve in such a short space of time since you joined the coaching staff?
It was unbelievable, really. To lose the first game and then win the next seven on the bounce was an incredible effort. So yeah, I’m very proud. The way that the players went about it was fantastic. They played aggressive, confident cricket and they put teams under pressure. It was a pleasure to watch and it wasn’t about what we did as coaches; it was what the players did in the middle.
Since Scotland lost to Kenya in the World Twenty20 Qualifier last November the team has won 14 of their last 16 matches, and a lot of those by a big margin. Does it feel like a lot has changed since you’ve been in the Scotland dressing room?
I’m not so sure. I think the skill level has always been there. In that limited amount of time you’re not going to change technique or skill levels too much but what you can change is the mentality, the approach and the confidence of the players. I think that’s the key thing. The mental side of the game is such a crucial factor in how you play out in the middle. That’s the kind of thing we tried to switch and really get a collective approach in terms of how they were going to go about their cricket, so you know that if you do fail then your teammates understand what you were trying to do. I think that’s a big factor in giving each individual player a lot of confidence.
Having missed out on qualification for the World Twenty20, what did you say to the players at the start of this qualification campaign?
We had a good team meeting at the start of the campaign and there was a lot of honesty. The players really drove that and said how they wanted to go about the tournament and how they wanted to play their cricket. Obviously then the coaches have to decide which players are best suited for certain positions and then, individually, give those players the confidence to perform in those roles. It’s not rocket science: if the players are very confident in doing those roles then they’ve got a lot better chance of performing them well.
Understandably you didn’t want to put too much pressure on the players ahead of the tournament but failing to qualify would have had huge knock-on effects wouldn’t it, with Scotland’s ODI status hanging in the balance?
It’s incredible how close it came in the end, with Rob Taylor scoring those runs off the last three overs against Kenya and it coming down to that run-chase. The difference if we hadn’t have made it to the feeling that we’ve got now is absolutely two ends of the spectrum. Guys would have lost their contracts and I think Scotland would have been in a bit of strife to be honest with you. But to feel what they’re going through now and to see the adulation… they’re going to be playing some seriously major cricket in the build up to the World Cup. It’s amazing and they’ve deserved it. We spoke about that before the tournament in the meeting as well, about the consequences [of failing to qualifying]. It could have gone either way, but thankfully it worked! Sometimes it’s better to get those things out in the open.
You lost your captain Kyle Coetzer early in the campaign. How impressed were you by the way Preston Mommsen stepped in to that role?
He enjoyed the responsibility and you can see that in the way he went about things, not just in his leadership but obviously his own individual performances. For him to get the Player of the Tournament award was a great achievement, particularly under the circumstances of taking over the captaincy and doing such a good job. He’s a serious cricketer. I think he’s a real nuggety kind of a player; I don’t mean nuggety in terms of how he looks or how he actually plays the game in the middle but by the fact that he’s very versatile and very strong mentally. That’s the most impressive thing about him, that in any given situation he seems to be able to adapt. I think he’s a player who has a huge amount of talent and I think it’s only a matter of time before he starts playing first-class cricket on a regular basis.
Durham have recruited Calum MacLeod on the back of his strong recent performances opening the batting for Scotland. Did you play a big part in making that deal happen?
Yeah, his skill level really impressed me when I was with Scotland for the T20 qualifiers and I thought he would be a great addition with Durham not having too many in the squad, especially for the shorter forms of the game. [Durham coach] Jon Lewis was keen to get him there and we’ve got him pretty much on a loan basis. Scotland have got international matches in May and we’d lose him through that month so we’ll just see how he goes in the first month, but I’m sure he’ll impress.
How did the split-coaching role with Craig Wright work?
It actually just turned out really well. We were a good combination because we are two different characters. He’s a really well prepared coach and speaks well to the lads as a whole and I did a lot more of the one-to-one stuff; backing the guys to go out there and perform their roles with confidence.
Is it a case of ‘job done’ for you now, or do you think you’ll be involved with Scotland again in the future?
I wouldn’t say it’s job done. You never know what’s going to happen in the future and I enjoyed working with the guys. You do form a really strong bond with the guys when you spend hours and hours in the nets with them and you’re going through the trials and tribulations that we did. I really enjoyed working with them so you never know what could happen in the future. I’d like to be at the World Cup at some stage next year.
And who will you be supporting when England take on Scotland at next year’s World Cup?
Well, if I’m working with Scotland I’d like Scotland to win!