Eoin Morgan the outsider has changed the DNA of English one-day cricket

first_imgReuse this content Share on Twitter Share on Messenger Pinterest Sport Eoin Morgan is a liar, a bluffer and an outsider. They are three of his greatest qualities. In the last three years Morgan has developed into a captain of rare brilliance, with a style that resembles the great Michael Vaughan. Both brought fresh eyes and independent thought to an apparently impossible challenge – beating Australia, in Vaughan’s case, and winning a World Cup in Morgan’s.Unlike Vaughan, Morgan has never really been taken to heart by the public. It’s hard to be certain what constitutes public opinion these days, but theere is a strong sense that plenty of England fans still think the team would be better without Morgan. An alternative take is that the whole thing falls in a heap without his leadership, and that he does not get anything like the credit he deserves. He probably needs to win the 2019 World Cup for that to happen, yet it shouldn’t be contingent on that. In changing the DNA of English cricket, Morgan has already achieved something extraordinary.Since the last World Cup, England have gone from pitiful stragglers to awesome pace-setters. They are the most exciting one-day team in the world, and much of that is down to a captain who dragged them kicking and screaming into the 21st century only 15 years late. He’s the miracle worker nobody bothers to thank.It’s not easy to discuss Morgan objectively. He’s been this writer’s favourite player since 27 September 2009, when he dumped South Africa out of their own Champions Trophy with a thrilling assault. It was all so different: unorthodox, unfettered and un-English. Nobody had played one-day cricket like Morgan did in the first 18 months of his England career, when he produced a series of outrageous match-winning innings.His batting does not stand out as it once did, mainly because everyone else now bats like him, but his leadership does. Most captains are judged by what they do in the field or off their own bat; it’s rare for somebody to have such a profound influence on all the other batsmen. After the 2015 World Cup Morgan created a culture in which batsmen could express themselves and trust their instinct without fearing the consequences. To paraphrase an old Mike Brearley quote about Sir Ian Botham: the sky is not England’s limit, it’s their target. Since you’re here… Share on WhatsApp … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We hope you will consider supporting us today. We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Twitter Share on Pinterest Cricket Eoin Morgan In the third game of their one-day series against New Zealand in 2015, England batted first and were bowled out for 302 in 45.2 overs. They lost the game and the old school chuntered about how they had wasted 28 deliveries, as if it would have been worthier to plod grimly to 171 for nine just so long as they used all 50 overs.When he was asked about it after the match, Morgan went on the counter-attack: he said he was proud of his team and that they were totally committed to a change of mindset. He did not give an inch. “We got 300 on the board – we were aiming for a lot more, which is the important part,” he said. “As long as we set the standards really high we’ll win more games than we lose playing in this manner.” Since that game, they have won 37 and lost 14.It takes a lot of strength to challenge received wisdom as Morgan has done, especially in the modern world. In hindsight, it was always going to take an outsider to change the culture of England’s one-day cricket. Though Morgan’s Irish background is a big part of that, it is not as important as his fiercely independent nature. Few players have such courage of their convictions.Morgan has an open mind, and has learned a lot from playing in T20 leagues around the world, but he also knows when to close it. He is decisive when it comes to filtering advice, and has a rare certainty that allows him to take decisions that are unpopular or unconventional: not touring Bangladesh as captain because of security concerns, leaving himself out of a T20 series decider against South Africa, taking a month off in the middle of the season. Morgan doesn’t care about perception, faux outrage, what people are saying on social media or any of the nonsense that makes so many of us compromise our beliefs to avoid a bit of hassle.You may not agree with all of Morgan’s decisions. But in an age of groupthink, it is refreshing to see somebody so intent on doing what they think is right rather than being seen to do what others think is right. And if he wants to fool around with a dildo on Jos Buttler’s stag do, that’s exactly what he’ll do.It’s difficult to know too much about a dressing-room you’ve never been in, but Morgan gives the impression of being like a cool teacher – somebody who can join in the fun without compromising their authority. You suspect most of the players would vouch for his man-management skills. The performances of Adil Rashid in particular reflect the skilful, sympathetic way he has been handled. Morgan helped an erratic, fragile leg-spinner become the second highest wicket-taker in ODIs since the last World Cup.Morgan’s use of attacking options like Rashid make him almost a must-watch captain. The middle overs are rarely boring while he is scheming. He sets booby traps for opposition batsmen, backs his hunches, has attack as the default option and generally behaves as England captains are not supposed to in one-day cricket.He also gives the impression of being in complete control. Sometimes he is; sometimes he isn’t. This is an area where Morgan does care about perception. He knows so much of international sport is about bluff, and he has worked extremely hard to develop one of the better poker faces in world cricket. This was one of Vaughan’s greatest strengths – he was inscrutable under the most extreme pressure in the field, and Steve Harmison called him “the best liar I ever met” for his ability to make the team feel confident at all times.Even if Morgan was not scoring a run, he might be worth his place as captain. Yet his ODI form is actually better than ever. Since the revolution began in 2015, Morgan has an average of 43 and a strike rate of 95. Anyone not happy with those numbers needs to watch a video of England’s one-day cricket from 1993-2015 at their earliest convenience.Morgan’s problem is that his form tends to be either volcanic or glacial, and those who do not rate or warm to him tend to only remember the latter. It doesn’t help that, when he’s out of nick, he can look pretty terrible. But then when he’s in form, he makes six-hitting look like the easiest thing in the world. Morgan has hit more sixes for England in international cricket than anybody else, a whopping 215. He has entertained us royally for the best of the decade, and he is a fiercely impressive captain. What’s not to love?Well, he was born in Ireland. It shouldn’t matter, but we all know how birthplace can affect the levels of affection towards England cricketers. He also makes little attempt to fit in. Morgan doesn’t play the game – and we don’t just mean first-class cricket. He does not court popularity or do the public-relations dance that modern society demands.The things that make Morgan such a good captain, from his cool detachment to his disdain for received wisdom, aren’t necessarily conducive to winning popularity contests. Not that he will care about that. As long as he continues to do things his way, England will win many more games than they lose.This is an extract taken from The Spin, the Guardian’s weekly cricket email. To subscribe, just visit this page and follow the instructions features Share on Facebook The Spin Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share via Email Topics Support The Guardian Morgan departs for a duck during the 2015 World Cup defeat to Bangladesh. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Imageslast_img

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