Kolkata: England's highest capped one-day cricketer and the only captain to have won a significant limited-overs silverware - the 2010 World Twenty20, Paul Collingwood is mighty impressed with the current Indian side under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, that he feels is perhaps the best fielding unit he has seen emerge from the country.
Collingwood, who is in India to air his expert views for the host broadcaster of the ongoing India-England series, spoke to MiD DAY ahead of Saturday's Twenty20 international at Eden Gardens, Kolkata.
Have England truly lived up to the World Twenty20 champions tag?
Definitely, they have. Under Andy Flower (team director), the side has played a very exciting brand of cricket. We deserve to be No. 1 in the format, having won eight games on the trot, which is a world record. In terms of Twenty20, regardless of the conditions, we have been a very strong side. We are the World Cup holders and have won many games. So it's the other sides that are chasing us really.
Would you say international Twenty20 hasn't assumed the importance? Each country is permitted only six or seven T20s by the ICC in a calendar year. T20 has largely been about domestic leagues.
I guess with the scheduling of the other formats of the game, it's difficult for the cricket Boards to get too many T20s in (into a tour itinerary). We also have to be careful on the emphasis on where cricket has to go in the future. Is Test cricket the priority, or is it ODI or T20? We have to be careful on what direction we head towards. Considering that, it's difficult to stage too many international T20s.
Besides Eoin Morgan and Kevin Pietersen, none of the English batsmen have truly stood out in T20 cricket. Would you say England have the right set of players to excel in the format?
We definitely have the right set of players. We have a very powerful batting line-up with very skillful batsmen who can improvise well. I am a big believer that bowlers will win you games in T20 cricket. You know in the past, guys like Ryan Sidebottom, Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad, with the likes of Graeme Swann and Michael Yardy, did a fantastic job for England for a long period of time. Now, it's time for the next generation of players who are coming through to deliver the goods.
How do you think England must approach the Twenty20 game at Eden Gardens on Saturday?
I think they will approach it as a one-off game. They would have forgotten about what's happened on the tour so far. Twenty20 cricket is all about confidence - having no regret, about attacking and expressing yourself out there. It's about putting up a show and this side has some characters.
How do you rate this Indian side, especially their fielding standards?
To be honest, India have surprised England with regards to their fielding on this tour. They have been athletic and powerful, have shown a lot of skill. I have never seen a better Indian fielding side. It's very pleasing for me to see that India have developed a lot in that aspect of the game.
There's been so much said on and off in this series.
My perception is that when you get two good sides that want to play for their country, such things are bound to happen. In sports, you have emotions. Whether you like it or not, there are people who will react when certain things happen on the field. I think it's perfectly healthy. You just have two sides that want to win badly. There's a lot of pride and stake on the line - that's because both sides believe in their hearts that they have what it takes to be the best in the world.
Next year England come back for four Tests. Are you worried going by the current results?
I wouldn't say I am worried. The last time we came here after the terror attacks in Mumbai (in 2008), we played well in both the Tests. In the first Test, a fantastic partnership (between Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh) took India to victory. In the second, we had a good shot at victory too. Anyway, in that format, I still feel England will fare a lot better. It will be the biggest possible test in these conditions, but I think Andy Flower will come with a well-prepared unit. These are two good sides.
England have beaten India in India only once in the last 18 ODIs. What's going wrong?
We haven't adapted to the conditions well enough - it's just as simple as that. Unfortunately in sports, it's not always black and white. Sport brings up results based on certain factors. India are just too good in these conditions - that's really the only explanation. I believe that most sides have been unable to win in India for the last few years.
Who would you say is your successor in this English team - the one who plays the sheet anchor - keeps the innings together with solid running between the wickets, etc.?
Ravi Bopara is making a good fist of it at the moment. He's probably the man for that middle-order. It's a very strong English side. We are still heading to the right direction. The focus is very much on the 2015 World Cup in Australia.
You've been involved in a few controversial run-out incidents over the years. What's your take on the new rule which tries to prevent a batsman from obstructing a fielder's throw?
I don't think it will make a big difference. That's because cricket is a game of impulse. Things happen on the field - but it's all in the right spirit.
And finally, are you excited about the Indian GP this weekend?
I haven't been a huge fan of Formula One. But, it's great for India that motorsport is taking off big time.