Today Peter Gilbert reacts to the news that Eoin Morgan has finally retired from all forms of cricket. How will you remember him as a player and captain?
Eoin Morgan has announced his retirement from all forms of cricket, having previously retired from international cricket in 2022. It can be argued that the Dublin-born batter should be remembered as England’s greatest white ball captain.
Morgan holds the record for most wins as white-ball captain, 118, saw England score the top three highest ever ODI scores, and his 6,957 runs is an ODI record for England.
In a statement, Morgan said: “I believe that now is the right time to step away from the game that has given me so much over the years. From moving to England in 2005 to join Middlesex right up to the very end, playing for Paarl Royals in SA20, I have cherished every moment.”
Morgan will ultimately be remembered for leading England to their first ODI World Cup trophy, on a glorious Lord’s day in July 2019. He should not just be remembered as England’s greatest captain because of the records and the trophies; he should also be remembered as England’s greatest captain for the way he changed the one-day culture under his leadership.
In the dismal 2015 World Cup group stage exit, England were not just defeated, they were out-thought. The humiliating defeat to New Zealand, 123 chased down by the hosts in just 12.3 overs, showed how far behind England were compared to the other leading nations in the game.
Supported by Trevor Bayliss and Andrew Strauss, Morgan was given free reign to change the mindset of England’s one-day set up. There was a freedom to express, take risks and back ability rather than shy away.
Morgan’s style of captaincy, cool, calm and collected, married perfectly to the new mindset. He never seemed to lose his cool, even when the game looked to be on a knife edge. Morgan was clinical, too, as highlighted by the response to Ben Stokes’ nightclub brawl, Alex Hales’ dismissal from the squad, and the decision to drop David Willey for Jofra Archer on the eve of the World Cup. All of this led to England becoming world number one in both T20 and ODI cricket, and culminated in the World Cup victory in 2019.
Without Morgan’s input, it would have been hard to see such a successful turnaround from the 2015 debacle. Morgan’s impact on the side is still being felt and will continue to be felt by England, not just with the white ball.
Though the T20 team would fail to win the World Cup under Morgan’s leadership, last year’s victory in Australia still had the feel of a Morgan team and a squad who had mostly played under his captaincy. England’s revitalised Test team, playing a far more expansive form of red ball cricket under Stokes, also emulates the positive mindset implemented by Morgan.
The 36-year-old also had a successful career with Middlesex, scoring fourteen hundreds with a high score of 191. He captained the London Spirit in The Hundred and was a prominent English figure in the IPL, too, leading the Kolkata Knight Riders to their first final in seven years in 2021.
Playing for Paarl Royals in the SA20, Morgan also hit a 27-ball 50 against the Durban Super Giants, and took a fantastic diving catch in a clash against Pretoria Capitals. Until the very end of his career, Morgan proved that he still had what it took to play at the top level.
It will be interesting to see how history views Morgan’s legacy. On the one hand he’s undoubtedly a great leader and his vision has almost single handedly been responsible for England’s upturn in white ball fortunes. On the negative side the inbalance this has created between red and white ball has not been to the benefit of the game in general. However Bazball has been his red ball legacy. Whether that can have the necessary knock on effect to save test cricket from the oblivion its facing from its franchise competition remains to be seen.
Morgan was White ball captain. It was his job to help turn the white ball team around which he did spectacularly. That is his legacy. Any inbalance in the red ball game should be irrelevant to how Morgan will be remembered.
Stokes has clearly been influenced by Morgan’s captaincy style. In that sense Bazball with its message of positive thinking and no fear of losing has infiltrated test cricket. It’s certainly interesting but only time will tell whether it’s enough to save the format.