Morgan thrilled to be on the inside looking out


Cricket: Emmet Riordanwas there on the morning after the Jager bombs as the Rush man helped celebrate Ashes victory

THE COMO Hotel in the South Yarra area of Melbourne could have been forgiven for changing its name on Thursday morning.

It was more a case of coma as the England cricket team slept off hangovers that were hard earned after the side retained the famous urn with a comprehensive innings defeat of Australia on Wednesday morning at the MCG.

A 24-year wait since Mike Gatting’s side claimed victory Down Under was ended in some style seven minutes before mad dogs and Englishmen normally take a stroll when Tim Bresnan had Ben Hilfenhaus caught behind the wicket to seal a victory that was never really in doubt once England had bowled out their hosts for 98 on a momentous opening day.

The players joined in a big huddle around the big Yorkshireman as they danced and hugged each other, while their supporters in the Great Southern Stand lived up to their name and went completely Barmy.

Eoin Morgan joined in the celebrations of what has been a tremendous team effort from England under coach Andy Flower and skipper Andrew Strauss.

Despite not starting any of the four Tests to date in the series and being confined to 12th-man duties, Morgan has felt a part of the success and indeed has had a unique perspective on just how England went about the task of retaining the Ashes in such fine fashion.

Looking more surfer dude than international cricketer when he arrived down to the lobby of the team hotel, the Dubliner admitted the celebrations had taken their toll, with an early start made and a late finish to proceedings.

And how things have changed, no slabs of beer for the new generation, with Jager bombs going off in the dressingrooms soon after the finish of play. Can’t imagine Fred Trueman would have agreed.

For Morgan the success has been the culmination of some serious hard work amongst a squad that has changed appreciably in personnel, but more crucially, in mindset, since the 5-0 whitewash on their last visit to Australia.

“The group of players that we have at the moment have been together for a long time and we’re a tight unit,” says Morgan.

“That’s taken a lot of building up and a lot of preparation. It’s not just that it come together now, it’s been like that for the best part of 18 months.”

And despite missing out on the Test side, Morgan is just delighted to be around such a successful set-up.

“I can’t complain, I’m playing with a great bunch of guys, I get on well with them and they’re outstanding cricketers,” adds the 24-year-old.

Morgan equates the dressingroom buzz throughout the tour to a club side, with no big egos dominating and younger players feeling comfortable among the more senior members.

“It’s something we talk about all the time, trying to get that club cricket atmosphere in the changing room. It’s very difficult to do in such a serious environment. Behind that is trying to take the emotion out of playing in big high-profile games.

“But Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss have been a big part of that, they’ve brought that in. That’s the way we get on with each other, you can give someone a dressing down no matter how senior they are.”

It’s 19 months since Morgan made his debut in an England shirt in a One-Day International against the West Indies in Bristol and he’s enjoyed the experience with victory at the World Twenty20 in the West Indies another triumph to go alongside the Ashes win.

An established star in the limited overs formats, Morgan was handed his Test debut at his home ground at Lord’s back in May and went on to play the series against Pakistan, where the highlight came in the first Test at Trent Bridge with a maiden Test century.

It wasn’t enough to see him force his way into the Ashes first XI, although Paul Collingwood’s miserable form with the bat could open up an opportunity for the final Test in Sydney, which starts at 11.30pm tomorrow, Irish time.

Either way, Morgan’s itching to get out in the middle and show the Australian public just what he’s all about. With both a Twenty20 and a one-day series to come he’ll have ample opportunities.

“I’ve prepared as hard, if not harder, that everyone else. We’re all fighting for places, the competition is fierce and trying to get into this side is very difficult,” he admits.

“But it’s been amazing for me to be part of this squad on an Ashes tour. Looking back on my progression from one-day cricket to Test cricket has all come pretty quickly. So I’m biding my time, I’m still learning my game and I’m happy to take a back seat at the moment and learn from the guys in front of me.”

Morgan’s assimilation into the England dressingroom has been a seamless one, no surprise to many who played alongside the left-hander during his early playing days in Ireland.

The Rush man was entering senior dressingrooms before he was a teenager and far from the idea of the young sprog making up numbers after one of the team failed to shake off a hangover, Morgan was a central part of the team. And if a youngster can survive and prosper in the surroundings of Fingal cricket clubs, then fear will not be an issue down the line.

Morgan’s star rating soared during his teenage years at club, school and underage international level. His ability to finish games off started early and it and the ice-cool nature of his personality were taken for granted when he was 14 or 15.

His progression to the full Ireland side would come at 16 against the Free Foresters at Eton College. He put the disappointment of being run out without scoring behind him quickly to score 71 the following day against the Club Cricket Conference at Shenley.

News quickly spread to Lord’s of the precocious talent and Ed Joyce persuaded the Middlesex authorities to get on the case. And Morgan hasn’t forgotten the role Joyce played in kick-starting his career in the county game.

“Primarily I got a trial with Middlesex because word came through there was an Irish guy and Ed was there and said ‘Yeah, go and have a look at him’,” recalls Morgan.

“So I was brought over for a trial and he was around, when I made my debut he was in the changing room. Everything was made easier because he had made the progression first, he led the way really and went on to play for England. So it was the norm when I got involved.”

Morgan also credits former Ireland coach Adrian Birrell with instilling the disciplines that eased his transition into the professional game. He also believes that without the South African, Irish cricket could not have reached the heights it has.

“For me he was definitely the one who set it in stone for Irish cricket, he turned things around massively. He gave me my debut and I played under-19 under him. He was the one that changed everyone’s mindset on what they were doing,” says Morgan.

“He made us buy in to the theory that everything revolves around your fielding, that it brings confidence into other parts of your game and has an impact in turning the game around.”

Birrell’s crowning moment came at the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, an event that a then 20-year-old Morgan was expected to excel at.

That script got ripped up, though, as Morgan struggled throughout the tournament, scoring just 91 runs in nine games.

He admits it was tough at the time, but a salutary lesson he believes has made him a better player.

“In the end I went through probably the lowest part of my career but I learned a hell of a lot from that, it gave me great perspective on things.

“If anything it made me train a bit harder, nailed my feet to the ground a bit more and pointed out that I was a lot further away from where I wanted to be than I thought I was.

“Everyone is going to have a couple (of low points) throughout their career but it’s how you come back from that, how determined you are as a player. It can be quite difficult at times but you’ve got to believe in yourself and have the confidence to pull through it.”

Australia is about to get a taste of just how far Morgan has bounced back over the coming weeks.

For now, though, on a glorious summer afternoon in Melbourne with the trams heaving with beach goers, was Morgan planning on hitting the surf with his team-mates?

Not a bit of it. “I’m watching the darts at the moment from Ally Pally. It’s great stuff.”