Cricket: The Day Colly Thought: That's It, My Career's over; WORLD CUP EXCLUSIVE
Byline: Neal COLLINS
LAST YEAR, Paul Collingwood woke up to find that the finely-tuned machinery he uses every day at work had ceased to function.
The 26-year-old Durham lad had lost all feeling in his right arm, a fairly crucial part of any right-handed all-rounders' tool box.
The date is etched in his mind. Collingwood groans: "It was August 1, 2002. I'll never forget it. I woke up with a stiff neck. Then I found I couldn't move the arm at all.
"I knew I had to get it sorted out but I couldn't even open the car door.
"I thought: That's it, the Ashes tour, the World Cup, the career. All gone."
Collingwood, having finally become a regular in England's one-day side - "I'd played 23 on the trot" - went to Durham physio Nigel Kent with his right arm hanging useless at his side, like a lump of meat.
"I'd played during the week and I had a bit of a sore neck. Then in a one-day game against Yorkshire I felt bad just running in. I was in pain with every step.
"By the time I went to see Nigel, the triceps had gone. I could pick up a glass of water using the biceps, but I couldn't put it down.
"I was in a complete panic. I saw a surgeon and he said we'd have to operate in two days. He wanted to graft a piece of my hip in to my neck to fuse two vertebrae."
If we can be technical for a moment: Collingwood had suffered a prolapsed disc. Scans showed the cartilage between vertebrae C6 and C7 had become worn after months of frantic bowling, batting and fielding. Unlike past generations of comfortably padded cricketers, the lithe Collingwood tends to hurl himself about in pursuit of one-day excellence.
The disc had worn on one side and had bulged out, pressuring the nerve leading down the right arm.
Collingwood says: "Apart from the loss of the triceps, the entire area between the right finger and thumb was numb. That's not good if you're a cricketer.
"My bat felt alien in my hands. Heavy. And I couldn't hold a ball. They said they had to operate.
"But then they put me on all kinds of medication, mainly a strong dose of steroids.
"Miraculously, they did the trick. The swelling went down, the nerve was released, and I began to get some feeling back. They postponed the operation.
"I missed the last three months of the season while Nigel worked on me. I used a 'theraband', like a huge elastic band.
"At first I could barely stretch it. Gradually I moved to stronger and stronger 'therabands'. And I felt I was getting somewhere.
"Then it was decided to send me out to Richmond in Melbourne to recuperate playing club cricket. …