Paul Collingwood admits that playing international cricket in front of a passionate Pakistan crowd in next month’s proposed World XI fixtures would be professionally tempting at this late stage of his career, but insists that nothing has yet been finalised amid reports that he is one of the marquee names to have been recruited for the three-match T20 series that is due to get underway in Lahore on September 10.
Collingwood, 41, said that his participation in the series was mere “speculation” at this stage, but conceded that he had been personally approached to take part by Andy Flower, his former England coach, who will be taking charge of a 15-man squad that is expected to be announced in the coming days.
“I’m sure Andy’s probably asked 50 cricketers from around the world, maybe even more, just to see if they’d entertain the idea,” Collingwood said. “It’s a starting point, more than anything else.
“There’s been a lot of speculation on social media, probably because I’ve got a week off with Durham [in the Specsavers Championship] so it fits well with the dates, but I can’t give you too much. I’ve been asked if I would be willing but, until details about security [are clarified], then you don’t know, you can’t commit.”
An ICC security team is expected to visit Lahore on August 26 and 27 to assess the arrangements for the week-long tour, which will include presidential-level security from the Punjab government – something that Collingwood experienced as a player on England’s tour of India in 2009, in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, and again in a coaching capacity on last winter’s tour of Bangladesh.
“There are two ways to look at it,” he said. “Some people worry because you need that level of security, other people will feel safe as houses because of that level of security. It depends what opinion you’ve got.
“Certainly, from my experience as an England cricketer, going back to India after the Mumbai attacks, it felt as safe as at any time to go back in. It wasn’t a very interesting tour, you are literally on lockdown. But in terms of safety, it was 100% fine.
“If you are going to be involved in something like this, you want to ask as many different people as you can. The security firms that people employ are very important – Reg Dickason with England, I’ve had a lot of trust in him – so it’ll be exactly the same as when you play for England. You ask a lot of questions and until you know the details, it’s silly to say you would be willing to do anything. But that’s the next step and we’ll go from there.”
According to newspaper reports, Collingwood stands to earn up to £80,000 for three T20 matches at the Gadaffi Stadium in Lahore, a venue which successfully hosted the final of the Pakistan Super League in March.
That financial incentive, coupled with the chance to help revive international cricket in a country whose players have been in exile since the attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009, are two significant reasons why he is considering taking part. But, he claimed, the factor that excites him the most is the full international status that the ICC have conferred on the games in a bid to attract the best opposition possible.
“There’s not one main reason why you’d get involved but certainly, as a 41-year-old, if I could play a T20 international in front of a big crowd, that would float anybody’s boat,” Collingwood said. “Of course the money would be a good thing, of course helping Pakistan would be a good thing. There’s all sorts of reasons, but the tag of a World XI for a 41-year-old, I’m quite proud of that if I was to get in that team.”
The prospect of a World XI tour has been in the pipeline ever since the success of the PSL final, which featured among its overseas players two West Indians, Darren Sammy and Marlon Samuels, and two England players, Chris Jordan and Dawid Malan. And Collingwood, who played on England’s last tour of Pakistan in 2005-06 – including a flying visit to Karachi for what was then their first international in over a year – remembers the passion of the country’s supporters and recognises their determination to get themselves back on the international stage.
“I think Karachi was the loudest I’ve ever heard a crowd during an international match,” he said. “They love cricket out there, and it is a tough place to tour as an opposition team. If we weren’t allowed to play cricket in England at this moment in time, we’d do everything possible to try to get cricket back. They are exactly the same.”
Paul Collingwood was speaking in association with Specsavers – title sponsor of the County Championship. For information visit www.specsavers.co.uk