England’s assistant coach Paul Collingwood has backed Zak Crawley’s attacking game and cricket brain to shine through in his unexpected captaincy stint against Ireland.
Already a Test regular, Crawley has been eager to break into the white-ball setup for some time but even he would not have predicted his big chance would come as skipper.
Yet with the World Cup squad resting up ahead of next month’s World Cup in India, the 25-year-old has been picked to lead a development side in the three-match series.
Crawley has just three ODI caps to his name after answering an SOS from the selectors when a Covid outbreak affected the original squad, but this represents a more intriguing examination – of both his white-ball skills and his future leadership potential.
And Collingwood, who worked closely with Crawley during his outstanding Ashes series this summer and captained England’s limited-overs sides in his playing days, expects him to pass with flying colours.
“Zak’s already had a great summer and a memorable Ashes, so this is a perfect opportunity for him,” Collingwood told the PA news agency.
“It’s just an extension of what he’s been doing. People think coming from red-ball cricket means you need to do things differently but if you look at Zak he’s basically been playing Test match cricket with a white-ball attitude.
“He looks to score, he’s aggressive and he has incredible talent. We all know he’s got those long levers, he’s got the power and he’s got the timing. It should be great to watch.”
Collingwood has no concerns about Crawley being weighed down by the responsibility of captaining in a format he has yet to establish himself in as a batter, citing his mental toughness after a long period of intense scrutiny during leaner times in his Test career.
“He takes it all in his stride. The great thing about Zak is all the noise genuinely doesn’t bother him,” he said.
“All he’s thinking about is how he’s perceived in the dressing room bubble. To captain the side and billed as that leader is a great opportunity for him and he’ll enjoy it.
“He’s got a great sense of humour, which a lot people don’t get to see, and he’s very relaxed. That’s what you want from your leaders: not too up, not too down. It’s a short spell for him in charge but he has a good cricket brain and I think he’ll transfer that to the team.”
Crawley’s fearless approach in the Ashes – from cracking the first ball of the series for four, through to his unforgettable 189 at Old Trafford – personified the dynamic style of cricket England have pursued under the guidance of coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes.
The thrills and spills of the series captured the imagination of the nation’s sporting public and Collingwood has been out spreading the gospel, taking part in a school coaching session at the Kia Oval in partnership with Play Their Way and the Chance to Shine charity.
“We could feel the Ashes reeled in a lot of news fans to the game and a lot of that is down to how these guys play the game,” said Collingwood.
“It’s vitally important we keep kids interested when they start to play and make it fun for them. When I was a kid there was a lot of emphasis straight away on defensive technique and caution. But these sessions are about educating coaches on what the kids want out of a session, not the other way around. We want them to hit the ball hard, enjoy it and hopefully stay in cricket.”
:: To learn more about the campaign, access resources and sign up to join the biggest grassroots movement to transform the way we coach our children and young people visit www.playtheirway.org.