Morgan emphasises importance of team unity


Cricket: England batsman Eoin Morgan has emphasised the importance of unity in international cricket as question marks remain over Kevin Pietersen’s future.

The England and Wales Cricket Board are keen to remain tight-lipped about their planned discussions with Pietersen, who was dropped from the Test squad earlier this month due to what team director Andy Flower described as issues of “trust and mutual respect”.

But that has not stopped a steady stream of reports about the nature of the stand-off between the parties surfacing, from the admission of “provocative” text messages between Pietersen and South Africa players to suggestions of behind-the-scenes rows at the Headingley Test. Morgan is not currently involved at test level but is one of a handful of one-day specialists drafted in for the NatWest Series against South Africa.

Speaking ahead of the second ODI, which takes place at the Ageas Bowl tomorrow, the Dubliner said: “I think Kevin is a world-class cricketer and any team around the world would want him in their side, but there are issues surrounding him at the moment and it will take time to resolve them.

“Personally I didn’t find him difficult but I’ve not been around the Test team a lot. Obviously the quicker that happens the better. I think that it is hugely important because the amount of time we spend together is huge. We spend more time together than with our families, particularly on tour. It is a huge factor and it has been for the last number of years — successful years we’ve had as the England cricket team.”

England’s one-day side have already had experience of coping without Pietersen’s undoubted skills, winning all six completed matches since his surprise retirement from limited-overs cricket. That was later reversed — albeit via an ill-conceived YouTube clip — but a 2-0 series win over West Indies and a highly-impressive 4-0 defeat of Australia suggest a recall is not a necessity.

And Morgan, a senior figure in the white-ball side despite his current absence from the Test reckoning, has been impressed by the strength in depth highlighted by Pietersen’s exit.

“I think we’ve played fantastic cricket. The guys who have come in and replaced him have done particularly well. Whoever has stepped up has done really, really well. That’s been important to the winning run we’ve had, particularly against a top side like Australia. We’ve built some great blocks towards where we want to be in our progress as a one-day side. I think we have a lot of match-winners.”

Despite his confidence, Morgan expects to be pushed all the way by the Proteas in the next four matches. “We’ve been exceptional on our own turf for the last year and a half but there’ll be a lot of hard work in this series because because South Africa are a huge challenge.

“Where we’re at is we’re a focused side, everyone knows their game plans well, everyone knows their role. But South Africa are a very formidable side too and a very successful side in the last five or six years.”

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