The first time I saw England’s ODI captain bat, he impressed me immensely. It was a county game between Middlesex and Kent (or possibly Sussex). There was a big crowd, gentle sunshine, and the smell of victoria sponges in the air.
All the pre-match talk was about the young South African tearaway Wayne Parnell, who has making his first televised appearance in county cricket. We heard how fast Parnell would bowl; how he was a cross between Allan Donald and Wasim Akram; how Middlesex would be unable to cope with his pace and aggression. Eoin Morgan sent the bloke packing. Absolutely destroyed him.
Within a few weeks, this highly impressive left-hander was poached from Ireland to play for England. I really liked what I saw. He had panache, swagger and ice in his veins.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that everything in Eoin Morgan’s garden is rosy right now. He’s struggling big time. I’m also a little disappointed that he’s probably no longer the world class ODI player he was a couple of years ago: in the early years of career I thought he was sensational, and could go on to become the new Michael Bevan or Yuvraj Singh.
I never thought Morgan would be a good test player, as I didn’t think his unorthodox style would translate, but I still thought he was the best one-day specialist we’d produced since Neil Fairbrother. The last couple of years have therefore come as something as a shock.
From where I’m standing, Eoin Morgan’s technique doesn’t quite look the same. It all started when that bizarre crouch crept into his game a couple of years ago. What on earth were the England coaches thinking?
Although this problem has largely been fixed, Morgan still doesn’t look back to his old self: he looks uncertain, as demonstrated by his dismissal against Mitchell Johnson a couple of weeks ago when he shouldered arms to a straight one.
Morgan’s strength used to be the simplicity of his game. If you look past the reverses-sweeps and switch-hits, his method used to be simple: keep still, watch the ball, whack it. We still see occasional glimpses of this player, but generally he looks a bit frazzled at the moment. Certainty has abandoned him.
Having said that, I’m confident that Morgan can rediscover his mojo. Although I’m slightly worried by his technique, I think he can thrive if he drops down the order to six, gets away from the new balls, and focuses on what he does best: finishing the innings.
Ideally Morgan shouldn’t think too hard about his batting. I simply want him to look at the scoreboard, assess the run rate, and wallop the ball into gaps. He’s got enough on his plate as captain, so I just want him to start enjoying himself without overcomplicating things.
I don’t want this to sound like a Derek Pringle article about Alastair Cook, but I also think Morgan has the resilience to bounce back. He has great mental strength. However, whereas I think Cook’s resilience comes from stubbornness – Alastair’s interviews betray a somewhat apprehensive personality that wants to be loved – a see no such insecurity in Morgan’s eyes. Watch his latest interview below. Despite all the pressure I see a composed and impressive young man.
Morgan is also the kind of person who doesn’t make excuses. Everyone within the England camp has adopted Peter Moores’ management speak to a certain extent – and Eoin does use the slightly nauseating term ‘reconnect with our batting’ – but overall I sense he doesn’t suffer guff lightly.
Our current ODI skipper is honest. He admits England let themselves down against Australia. But when he talks about the positives (the good individual performances) it doesn’t come across like he’s clutching at straws. He’s not one for platitudes.
Eoin also keeps things in perspective: he appreciates these early games are really just warm-ups before the knock out stages. There’s no bull about ‘the next game being the biggest game’ and a ‘must-win’. He sees things for what they are.
The public might demand success in every game, but Morgan knows England’s World Cup will probably be defined by their performance in the quarter-finals. Win that one game, reach the semis, and most people will be satisfied.