Collingwood backs Stokes recall
Paul Collingwood insists Ben Stokes "belongs in the England side" following the Durham all-rounder's expected recall to the Test squad to face India.
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The 23-year-old was the star performer during England's otherwise dismal Ashes winter, taking 15 wickets and hitting a maiden Test century in the 5-0 Australia whitewash, but saw his progress stall after a self-inflicted injury.
Stokes punched a locker on the limited-overs tour of West Indies, forcing him to miss the World Twenty20 and, due to uncertainty over his match-fitness, the start of England's international summer.
But a career-best bowling performance against Sussex in the County Championship last week that brought match figures of 10-121, plus an eyecatching 49 not out against Derbyshire in the T20 Blast at the weekend were enough to convince the selectors that he was ready to return for a five-Test series against India which starts next week at Trent Bridge.
And delighted Durham skipper Collingwood has no doubts his team-mate deserves to be back in the England fold.
"Ben Stokes belongs in the England side. I'm delighted for him and he deserves to be back," Collingwood told sportinglife.com.
"His spells in our game against Sussex last week were world class and they were long spells so he's got his fitness back and he's ready to go.
"He also got a quickfire 49 in the T20 game on Sunday and when you've been out for that long then obviously he's chomping at the bit to get back in the side.
"He's a talent and he has potential - but that's all it is at the moment. He's the person that can use that talent and become whatever he wants to be ... but there's a long way to go before he gets to that point.
"He's still a young lad who has plenty still to learn and we'll help him all we can at Durham to become the player he can be - but he certainly could be a player that plays for England for many years to come."
Former England captain Collingwood admits he has sympathy for current Test skipper Alastair Cook who was faced with calls for him to resign following the recent 1-0 series defeat to Sri Lanka.
After that demoralising winter drubbing by Australia, Cook has also struggled for runs but Collingwood believes the opener will battle his way back to form.
"Being England captain is a tough job and going through the period that he has done it can feel like a very lonely job," said Collingwood, who skippered England to victory in the 2010 World Twenty20.
"Alastair Cook is always a man who comes out of the other side and I'm sure he won't want to pack it in, but he also has to make sure that the reason he plays cricket is to score runs and to enjoy the game. That's why you do it.
"The team had an awful winter and the captain takes the brunt of it, that's the way it is. It's a tough time for him at the moment but hopefully he and the team will get through it."
Collingwood celebrated his 100th career Twenty20 match by helping Durham to unlikely 28-run victory over Yorkshire in the NatWest T20 Blast at Headingley on Wednesday evening.
After being restricted to a modest 123 for nine after winning the toss, inspired spells from leg spinner Scott Borthwick, seamer John Hastings and Collingwood himself saw the Tykes skittled out for just 95 in 17.2 overs.
"It's certainly a match that I will remember," said Collingwood.
"I'll be honest with you and say that I thought we had messed it up in the first half where 140/150 would have been a good score on there, but the wicket made it diffiicult to get the ball away and especially to get boundaries.
"But the way we attacked the game in the field was outstanding and I thought Scott Borthwick was exceptional. It really relied on him producing a good four-over spell and he got two wickets in his first over when we needed something.
"But it was a team effort - you can't have one bowler off their game defending a score like that and I thought everyone put their hand up.
"Maybe the crowd are looking to see fours and sixes, but it was an intriguing match. We said two games ago that we were not out of it by any stretch and now we've had back-to-back wins which is great for the confidence.
"We need to improve the batting which obviously let us down here but we can take great heart from the way we fought back."