As Shane Watson edged behind in Australia's first innings, he said aloud, 'Oh No', picked up on the stump mike. He's a well brought up boy, a credit to Mr and Mrs W. I remember as a kid exclaiming quite loudly 'No!' in a spoiled brat voice when I popped a leading edge up in the air in some game or another, and being shocked as the sound came out of my mouth. Always weird when your internal monologue spills into the real world [over the years I've met a surprising amount of people who admit to commentating on themselves in their heads as they play... and you don't want to be involuntarily gobbing that out].
Watching Paul Collingwood last night, his thought processes seemed as stark and obvious as if he'd spoken them. Often the years of mental battle weigh on you more heavily than any physical injury or stress, because batting is an inward fight, a constant search for elusive stillness and instinct. Sometimes it becomes unreachable, and the short-circuit comes.
Beer was bowling to him, and, contrary to the hype he wasn't useless, or Paul Harris. He got a little turn, but more impressively, some drift and dip, and the ball thudded heavily into the pitch. Colly left a few and then came down to him. In those instants before he struck the ball, he would have been aware that it was a fraction too wide, that he wasn't quite there, and instead of dropping the bat he thought, 'fuck it', and swung anyway.
The shot was more revealing than most: it was a shot made in the accumulation of every failure that has gone before it, a shot of a man who has fought for a long time and who - somewhere in his psyche - wants to go out on his shield, to feel the relief of the struggle being over. That's what Colly did. Vale - and well played for all of those years. See you on the other side.
NB: This post went up before Colly announced his Test retirement: a more fitting tribute will appear in the player-by-player shindig to come.
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