'I'm nowhere near Test cricket' - Morgan
Eoin Morgan believes he is still some way short of the finished article despite selling for US$220,000 to Royal Challengers Bangalore at the IPL auction on Tuesday. Morgan was the only England player to be awarded a new IPL contract, and he is now set for a handsome boost to his finances.
"When the bid came through I was delighted," Morgan told Cricinfo. "I was very nervous beforehand. I made a deal with my housemate that he would watch it and I would try and sleep through, but inevitably I woke up 10 minutes before I was due. Though I didn't want to watch it, I ended up following it on Cricinfo."
His nerves only heightened when Shahid Afridi failed to attract any interest. "After seeing him not get a gig, I thought I would struggle, but once it came up that Bangalore had bid for me, I knew I was sorted."
The good news came the day after he was overlooked for England's Test tour to Bangladesh. Following some sensational knocks for England's one-day and Twenty20 side this winter, including a 34-ball 67 to set up victory against South Africa in the Champions Trophy, there were advocates for Morgan's promotion to the Test team, but he was not surprised when he wasn't selected. "I don't believe I'm anywhere near the Test position at the moment, because my form in the longer game hasn't been anywhere near as good as my one-day form," he said. "I believe that I'll be pushing for the Test spot at some point, but I'm certainly not ready yet."
Having played one-day cricket for Ireland, Morgan left the country of his birth and committed to England in 2006, because he wanted to play Test cricket. It's an ambition that Angus Fraser, the director of cricket at Morgan's county Middlesex, feels is well within his grasp.
"As a four-day player he is still quite young," Fraser told Cricinfo. "All the cricket he played in Ireland was pretty much one-day cricket but, like Viv Richards, you'd rather have a player who has the attacking shots. People say the first shot you need in Test cricket is the forward defence, but it's better to have the natural ability to strike the cricket ball, like he has, and then work on the defence."
At 23, Morgan is still very much a work in progress, but the prospect of playing with some of the best players in the world is something he feels will aid his development. "I could learn about all aspects of the game from them," he said. "Playing with [Jacques] Kallis and again with Kev [Pietersen], will be a great chance to pick their brains. I was in South Africa watching the IPL last year and the hype around it was immense. I can't imagine what it will be like in India but I think the big-match experience at this level can help improve my basics, which will assist my first-class game."
Fraser echoes those sentiments and thinks Morgan will be bright enough to make the most of his experiences. "He'll be alongside players who have experienced most things the game can throw at you. It can only do good to watch the way they prepare and how they go about their games. He's quite independent and has his own way of doing things, but he's a bright young man who'll try to glean all he can."
Morgan will be hoping for a better debut season at the IPL than Pietersen's chastening experience at last year's event. Having arrived as the tournament's joint-most expensive player, with a US$1.55M price tag, Pietersen failed to make a significant impact as captain and aggravated the Achilles injury that forced him out of the Ashes series after two Tests. He ended up needing surgery on his right ankle and endured a difficult return for England against South Africa, scoring 177 runs at 25.28 in the Test series. Morgan, however, is confident Pietersen will find his best form soon.
"He is an absolutely world-class player who's just struggling for runs at the moment. I thought he looked in fine form during the one-day series when he was in the nets, and he's going to continue to score a hell of a lot of runs soon."
The flamboyance and unorthodox nature of Pietersen's strokeplay is reminiscent of Morgan's unconventional approach, with many of his runs coming from ambidextrous sweeps and deflections, alongside the power to hit big sixes. While often put down to his experience playing hurling while growing up in Dublin, Morgan doesn't feel it's overly important to his game.
"I played hurling until I was about 12, so it's not as if my cricket career has been curved around it," he said. "There are various grips, such as for the reverse-sweep, which I can relate to hurling, but it's not too much of a factor."
The hurling may not have shaped Morgan's cricket very much, but Fraser nevertheless feels his Irish upbringing will prevent any danger of the young man getting sucked into the Bollywood razzmatazz at the IPL. "All the Irish cricketers I know are fairly down-to-earth people who like to get stuck into some hard work and have a pint of Guinness at the end of it," he said. "I don't see him getting too carried away with it all out there."
Sahil Dutta is assistant editor of Cricinfo