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England's Ashes flops 'deserve medals not criticism' with claims officials put money ahead of players' mental health

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27th January, 2022
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England’s Ashes flops “deserve medals not criticism” for enduring the five-Test series in Australia during a pandemic, says England assistant coach Paul Collingwood.

Collingwood, the acting head coach of the England T20 squad that is touring in the West Indies, has leapt to the defence of the maligned team that was rolled 4-0 this month.

He said the series should have been split in two with two Tests this summer and three next to have made it more competitive.

He said that was discussed among players but was never formally proposed by the England & Wales Cricket Board to Cricket Australia.

“People have to understand what it’s been like, and it is almost impossible to measure how much the bubbles have affected preparation,” Collingwood told reporters.

“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.

“Yes, we made mistakes, 100 per cent we made selection mistakes, we made toss mistakes, but the fact we actually turned up and agreed 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. We were sitting ducks.”

Collingwood said he thought finances were prioritised ahead of players’ mental health.

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“We kept cricket going for those two years; we had to do it for financial reasons. Players have had to sacrifice things, as have their families,” Collingwood said.

Ben Stokes and Joe Root.

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

“Resilience is a major quality you need to have when you go to Australia, and if your resilience is removed because of the conditions you’ve been in, that has an effect.

“If people are expecting top performances from your best players, and your best players are playing all the time, it’s unrealistic. You just can’t do that.

“Hopefully bubbles are starting to move out of cricket now and I just hope the administrators and governing bodies don’t keep pressing for them trying to protect matches because we also have to protect the mental health of the players and management.

“What I have seen over the last two years is that we’ve kept the show on the road, and it was important to keep the show on the road to preserve people’s jobs – whether it be media, players or administrators. We saved a lot of jobs doing that. The Ashes was one step too far.”

Collingwood added that bubbles could prematurely end careers.

“This is another thing that I’m worried about. You have seen it around world cricket. People like De Kock, Chris Morris retired early,” Collingwood said.

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“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, been 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.”

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