Now don’t get me wrong. I really like Eoin Morgan. He’s done a tremendous job as England’s ODI captain, and he’s a very good white ball batsman too. In fact, I think he’s one of our best ever players. People just forget how good he is because he’s surrounded by so many other fantastic white ball batsmen these days.
However, the one thing I dislike about Eoin is how he’s become completely subsumed by the ECB’s communications culture since becoming captain. He used to be ‘real’. Now he talks like a corporate mouthpiece. He’s become a walking cliche in recent months – as if he’s being controlled by the same robot that operated Andrew Strauss.
Why is it that everyone employed by the ECB (in senior roles anyway) speaks in a language that’s best described as corporate windy drivel? It basically involves expressing very simple concepts in as many long words as possible. It’s management speak on steroids. I used to think it was just Strauss, who’s a bright chap and probably enjoyed management concepts, but now Morgan’s become infected I’m not so sure.
Eoin’s recent talk of team ‘culture’ and ‘outcomes’ is supposed to sound impressive, but instead it seems self-important, aloof, and makes him sound like the most boring man alive. It’s also incredibly cheesy. It’s verbal camembert of the highest order. And it doesn’t sounds clever. It’s sounds naff.
Take Eoin’s recent press conference when Alex Hales’s name came up. He claimed that Hales’s indiscretion had tested the team culture like never before. He even suggested that a similar incident might have derailed the whole World Cup campaign in previous eras. A quick tightening of my corset was required to prevent my sides from splitting at this point. How can one bloke getting dropped (a guy who wasn’t even first choice) possibly undermine an entire squad?
My suspicion is that Eoin is taking himself, and what he does, far, far too seriously. Take the following as a prime example:
Our values as a team include the words ‘courage’, ‘respect’, and ‘unity’, symbolising the three lions on our cap, and taking that cap forward across all three formats and all squads
Someone pass the bucket please. I can see why words like ‘courage’ and ‘unity’ might have a place in an army commercial, but to use them in reference to a cricket team seems bizarre. What words would he use to describe the Victoria Cross if he’s getting all emotional and hyperbolic when describing the blokes he plays cricket with?
One wonders where all this is ultimately going to lead. If England win the World Cup, I imagine Eoin is going to burst into tears and start quoting Ronald Reagan or Wilma Rudolph: “Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit, the potential for greatness resides within each of us”. The team will then presumably unleash fifteen white doves, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya on the Lord’s balcony.
Although team spirit does have some role to play in cricket, Eoin has been going well over the top. After all, team bonding is probably less important in cricket than any other team sport I can think of. The result is decided by a series of individual battles – batsman against bowler – rather than eleven men working together in concert.
I can see why this language might have more relevance in rugby, where players put their bodies on the line, and it takes several players to clean out a ruck or lift a jumper in a line-out, but using cheesy military language in modern white ball cricket just doesn’t compute. There are dancing girls parading around the boundary for Pete’s sake. This isn’t Gladiator starring Russell Crowe; it’s a slogathon featuring Andre Russell.
I’ve always worried when England captain’s start talking about ‘culture’. It takes me back to the days when Graham Gooch banished David Gower, and when Andy Flower banished Kevin Pietersen. I’m not going to cry for Alex Hales, but it’s this kind of mentality that sometimes robs England of their most entertaining players.
One senses there simply wouldn’t be any room in the England dressing room these days for an Ian Botham with his celebrity lifestyle, David Gower with his Tiger Moths, or even Mike Gatting with his penchant for reverse sweeps and pork pies. We’d probably even banish someone like Shane Warne with his poker, new-casinos.uk, and love of excess. Free spirits aren’t tolerated any more. And if they become captain then look out. They have a complete vocab reboot.
The bottom line is that although England might well win the World Cup – and I pray they do – it won’t be because of their culture. And if they lose in the semis after being bowled out for 50 on a green-top it won’t be because of their culture either. England’s World Cup campaign rests on whether they’ve got the best players. Nothing else really matters.
Just look at the great Australia teams of the recent past. Some of them couldn’t stand each other and their team culture left plenty to be desired. Here’s what Brad Hogg said about it in his autobiography:
The whole Australian dressing room wasn’t a pleasant place to be … it could be a brutal environment, even for those who had been around long enough to feel like part of the furniture. There was always a heady mix of ego, hierarchy, insecurity, respect (or lack of it), bravado, sycophancy and fear in the room.
Yet Australia swept everything before them in all forms of the game. Why? Because they could bloody play. It’s hardly rocket-science.
One imagines that particular Aussie side, which was also one of the most resilient ever, would’ve laughed at England’s corporate management speak. And they would’ve fallen off their chairs had anyone suggested that their World Cup could be derailed by an Andrew Symonds doing something stupid on a night out weeks before the tournament.
Historically English cricket hasn’t needed any help making itself a laughing stock. We’ve had defeats to Zimbabwe, defeats to Ireland, and defeats to Holland too. So now we’ve finally got ourselves a decent XI, I beseech Eoin and the ECB to stop the nonsense and just speak like normal human beings.
They might find this helps to grow the game more than cheesy soundbites ever will.