Captain Morgan treasures opportunity
Cricket:Eoin Morgan will relish the chance to extend England’s feel good factor, after their historic Test series victory in India, when he leads an inexperienced Twenty20 team against the hosts tomorrow.
The Irishman, who has just once before led his adopted country — against his native one, in a one-day international — steps up again, because regular captain Stuart Broad has gone home injured.
Morgan spent much of the past two months on the periphery of the Test squad, as England famously won in India for the first time since 1984-85. But he will step out of the nets and into centre stage, for the first of two Twenty20s before his team follow the Test specialists back to England in time for Christmas.
The middle order batsman will be unfazed by his sudden shift into the limelight - because he has made it his business to be ready to do so, since he was first made vice-captain. Asked if it is a difficult adjustment, he said: “I don’t think so.
“Being vice-captain of the Twenty20 side in the first place, you’re always going to be thrust into a situation where the captain might get injured. It’s not that I’ve prepared for it, but mentally you think if something happens to Broady then you might get the chance. Really, I’m quite happy to take the reins.”
England lost by an embarrassing 90-run margin when they were bowled out for a record low score of 80 in their last Twenty20 meeting with India. That came in Colombo three months ago during the failed defence of their ICC World Twenty20 title, and tomorrow they will make at least four changes as they choose from an especially young squad.
Morgan is enthused by the chance to be part of their development, with the next World Twenty20 in Bangladesh already in mind. “It’s a great opportunity for me in these two games against one of the best sides in the world in their backyard.
“It’s certainly going to be a challenge I’m looking forward to. He hopes the success of the Test team can pass on a winning momentum too.
“Absolutely, as we’ve seen in the past when the Test side has done well, it’s had a knock-on effect with the other two teams — and certainly we’ll be looking to win these two games and take confidence and momentum from the Test side and keep the winning habit up.
“Sri Lanka was a bit of a disappointment. We certainly didn’t achieve any of our expectations or perform in crucial games when we really needed to. There were a number of areas we looked at and identified, and we hope we’ll produce the performances which will catch up the learning curve we’re going through at the moment.
“It’s in preparation for Bangladesh, and the young guys coming through have fantastic potential. I hope they’ll perform over the next four of five days.”
Morgan senses the combination of high morale after the Tests, and an influx of players with much to prove, will make his job enjoyable. “I think generally, when you’re in a side and you get new guys coming in, they do bring a buzz and a new energy.
“The fact the team has changed so drastically, I think that energy is evident around the hotel at the moment. If we can take that into the game and stay cool and calm and back ourselves to produce our skills, I think we’ll be all right.”
His opposite number Mahendra Singh Dhoni is hoping for an opposite effect, having led India to their unexpected first Test series defeat at home since 2004. “It’s a completely different format, so I don’t think there’s any point carrying anything from the Test series into this,” he said.
“You have to start from scratch every time.” The India team is much changed too, full of players who have impressed at IPL. England’s rising stars feasibly have the chance at a 50,000-capacity IPL
franchise venue, hosting its first international match, to put themselves in the same shop window.
Dhoni warns, however, they will have to be outstanding to interest IPL employers because of constraints on their availability as England players. “Most of the time when the IPL happens, I don’t think the English team has a clear period — so they’re not available for the full 45 to 50 days of cricket.
“That’s a big concern when it comes to some of the IPL franchises.” Currently, only superstar status such as Kevin Pietersen’s, can overcome that hurdle. “The English team have fantastic talent, players who can have a big impact in the shorter format,” added the India captain.
“If most of them were available for the full 45 or 50 days, I could see England players coming to the IPL. Kevin Pietersen is a really different batsman ... if he’s available for half a season, the sides can still gamble that he can play seven or eight games at least. He’s a special player. But you have to be that special.”