England news

Morgan opts for England above IPL

David Hopps

February 10, 2014

Comments: 59 | Text size: A | A

Eoin Morgan launches the ball for six, Kolkata Knight Riders v Sunrisers Hyderabad, IPL, Kolkata, April 14, 2013
Eoin Morgan has given all this up to concentrate on winning an England Test place © BCCI
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Eoin Morgan has withdrawn from the IPL auction only two days before it is due to take place to try to win a place in the England Test side.

Morgan's reassessment of his career at a time when, at 27, he can be assumed to be reaching his peak comes after the enforced retirement from international cricket of Kevin Pietersen.

Morgan will now spend early season playing Championship cricket for Middlesex in the hope of forcing his way into the England side for home Test series against Sri Lanka and India.

His decision is a considerable switch of emphasis. Morgan has repeatedly spoken about how IPL has enhanced his game and he has been unshakeable in his determination to play it.

The IPL will seek to make light of Morgan's withdrawal. He has rarely set the tournament ablaze, although did have his most successful IPL season at Kolkata Knight Riders in 2013, averaging 27.90 over 14 matches with a strike rate of 127.91. He had a base price of Rs 15 million ($240,000). He is also only ranked 19th in the ICC Twenty20 rankings. But his abilities are regarded as considerably greater within English cricket.

His decision is a huge fillip for England after a challenging week in which the ECB has been widely pilloried for the decision to turn its back on Pietersen because of what has been explained as a breakdown of trust. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, rather than let the ECB manage the announcement, Morgan told people directly on Twitter.

The ECB could not have clearer in expressing their faith in Alastair Cook as Test captain, and would not countenance talk of a change, but for all that Morgan's tactical acumen is highly regarded and if he breaks into the Test side it would be no surprise to see him immediately appointed vice captain.

Many still question whether Morgan has the game for Test cricket - he majors in the sort of deflections and innovations which are the very stuff of the limited-overs game, but if his desire is there he certainly has the mental aptitude.

He played the last of his 16 Tests against Pakistan two years ago, a victim of a disastrous Test series against Pakistan in the Middle East, and his average of 30.45 is a modest one. But he still has time to put that right and the curious crouching stance, which he once adopted to seek extra leverage in T20, has already been eradicated from his game.

There are few mentally-tougher cricketers in the England dressing room and, If he suggests he can make the adjustment, England will be quick to implant him in what is likely to be a rapidly-evolving team.

Morgan always insisted that he would push for Test recognition if he felt he had a serious chance of selection. Somebody presumably has "had a word" in the aftermath of Andy Flower's departure as team director and a change in the national selector with James Whitaker taking over from Geoff Miller.

Miller was adamant that Morgan blew his chances of Test recognition by remaining at IPL last year. At that point, Flower's commitment to an attritional game suggested that Morgan's chances of a comeback were low, but perhaps he feels his time is now.

With England's finest one-day cricketers - potentially Alex Hales apart - all now playing early-season Championship cricket, the likes of Morgan, Ben Stokes at the champions Durham and Jos Buttler, who has moved to newly-promoted Lancashire, will add fresh impetus to the start of the Championship season.

Morgan has also been appointed Middlesex's one-day captain this season but if Middlesex are delighted at his presence in four-day cricket, they must also fear that, if he forces his way into the England side, he will quickly be withdrawn from the T20 Blast - England's relaunched domestic Twenty20 tournament.

Morgan, along with Pietersen, has been the most box office England cricketer at IPL - the list has not been a big one - and it again begs the question as to whether the BBCI and ECB will build on a stronger relationship by negotiating the shift of IPL to early March to avoid a clash with the English season.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (February 12, 2014, 11:12 GMT)

@JG2704 I rather got the impression with the squad selection for Australia that the selectors were over-confident and expected to win easily. The reasoning seemed to be that the core XI from the summer would play unchanged save in the 1st Test when Tim Bresnan would not be available and that the rest of the squad would not be needed and so some people could be taken to see how they shaped up. Jonny Bairstow was, basically, there to spend two months as a drinks waiter unless Matt Prior trod on a ball on the morning of a match. Monty was taken in case Graeme Swann fell over his rubber duck in the shower on the morning of a match. Finn and Rankin went as the spare bowler. And Stokes and Ballance for experience. No one seriously expected any of them to have to play. The reserves were picked more on a "just in case we have to make a last minute change" basis, rather than on the thinking that they would play a major part. Tremlett was there as a good old pro who could rehabilitate in Aus.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (February 12, 2014, 10:58 GMT)

@JG2704 I am not so worried about the wicket-keeping slot. There is plenty of talent there and it is just a matter of deciding which player to go with and what the emphasis is to be (with Matt Prior we wanted an attacking #7 who was also a good 'keeper but, going back a few years, Alec Stewart was picked mainly as an opening bat who could do a reasonable job as a 'keeper, but was only an occasional 'keeper for Surrey - that he developed into a fine one was a bonus).

I am more concerned about re-commissioning players such as Eoin Morgan who have never quite made it at the top level. He lost his central contract and, apparently, all interest in red ball cricket but, with so many slots up for grabs and, potentially, the captaincy, it is understandable that he wants to throw his hat into the ring. There is such a long list of players waiting for a chance (Moeen Ali, Sam Robson, Varun Chopra, James Taylor, Buttler, etc.) that it is not obvious to me that we need to go back to other players

Posted by JG2704 on (February 12, 2014, 10:11 GMT)

@CodandChips on (February 11, 2014, 15:55 GMT) Re Foakes - It's interesting that Buttler was directed away from his club to keep regularly in the 1st team but it seems Foakes has not been advised similarly. Cook plays for Essex but I'm sure that must be pure coincidence

Posted by JG2704 on (February 11, 2014, 21:18 GMT)

@Paul Rone-Clarke on (February 11, 2014, 10:36 GMT) I honestly don't like to 2nd guess our selections any more. They have made some very bizarre picks in recent times.

@CricketingStargazer on (February 11, 2014, 11:04 GMT) It was strange. I mean I think he had one really decent spell of bowling all season so cant understand how they thought he was going to be the monster of 2010/11 based on this season

@CodandChips on (February 11, 2014, 15:55 GMT) I still think Buttler may be firmly in the selectors minds for either the SL/Indian series. In fact if he starts the CC season well with Lancs it would not surprise me at all if they picked him. Was Morgan's 1st incarnation as a test player based on any sort of form in 4 day cricket? Again I don't agree - just think it may happen

Posted by CodandChips on (February 11, 2014, 15:55 GMT)

@JG2704 I think you misunderstand what I said. I was basically just disagreeing that England will pick Buttler. Am awondering why it wouldnt surprise you?

Also on keepers why are the ECB obsessed with Foakes. What's he like as a keeper and batsman? Surely he's stuck behind Foster at Essex?

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (February 11, 2014, 11:04 GMT)

@JG2704 The Tremlett experiment was as mysterious to me as it was to anyone else. I think that you know my views: he was selected as an "extra" player to monitor his progress based on his 2010 success and only got picked for the Test side by accident as the struggles of Finn and Rankin and the injury to Bresnan meant that we were a bowler short and he happened to be around.

Of course, you look at his figures and he was the only seam bowler apart from Broad to average around 30 in the series which meant that, in the context of that game, he was a relative success. He kept things tight, took a few wickets and allowed Jimmy A. and Stuart B. to be spelled. However, the fact that he was even considered was a massive admission of the dire straits that the team was in due to poor squad selection. He would not have got away with another Test without being taken apart.

Posted by   on (February 11, 2014, 10:36 GMT)

JG2704 Im hoping the Tremlett experiment has pushed England the other way. Unfit AND out of form at the same time. If you are pure class then maybe playing at 90% fitness can be justified. If you are 100% fit then playing an under performing player might have so e benefit (bringing them on if they are a youngster maybe) but picking a tall quick who can barely get through an over of 78mph dolly-drops without looking like he needs oxygen and has just come out a very underwhelming season? Why? Rankin? The guy looked so out of sorts and out of fitness. Another case for the oxygen mask after A short spell of leg side half volleys and wide long hops. England were carried by two bowlers who disguised just how poor the rest were...and boy were they poor.

Posted by JG2704 on (February 11, 2014, 10:07 GMT)

@BailsRgo on (February 10, 2014, 11:06 GMT) Just thought I'd let you know that Morgan has played a number of tests for England and WAS dropped when his form deserted him. Nice theory though.

Posted by JG2704 on (February 11, 2014, 10:03 GMT)

@CodandChips on (February 11, 2014, 7:42 GMT) Listen bud , we pretty much agree on what we think should happen here. I too would have Buttler and Morgan nowhere near the test set up at this stage which I explained in my initial post but I would now bw very surprised if Morgan is not selected and I wouldn't be a t all surprised if Jos is selected either. Personally I have no issue with Johnny but they seem to bring him in for a test or 2 and then drop him. Have no issue with Davies either

@CricketingStargazer on (February 11, 2014, 9:30 GMT) England proved last year (with Tremlett) that current form/fitness etc means little at times. I disagree with the decision but I'm pretty sure Morgan would not be giving up IPL 2014 if there was not a probabliity of playing for England.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (February 11, 2014, 9:30 GMT)

@JG2704 Doubt that Eoin Morgan has been guaranteed a Test spot because he has barely played red ball cricket for the last two years and what little he has played has been with only limited success. To be honest, probably he would not even have made it into Middlesex's best XI last season, even with their dreadfully unreliable batting.

That said, he is pure frustration because he has bags of talent and ability and when the situation moves him, will produce it. It could be that, like Mike Gatting, he will suddenly flower if made the lynchpin of the batting. Withdrawing from the IPL, taking on the Middlesex ODI captaincy and playing Championship cricket in a bid to get his Test place back all smack of someone ambitious to get into the side and, probably, to take the job away from Alistair Cook if the chance arises. The selectors may well have that option in the back of their minds.

On Jonny Bairstow... I think that his chance has gone. He is not central to plans any longer.

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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