Morgan itching to return from injury
Eoin Morgan's rehabilitation from shoulder surgery will begin in earnest this week when he heads for India to take part in a nine-day batting camp with the England performance programme. The trip, which will be overseen by the ECB's lead batting coach, Graham Thorpe, will also involve the Test captain Andrew Strauss and wicketkeeper Matt Prior, neither of whom took part in the 5-0 ODI series defeat in India last month.
Morgan would have been involved in that campaign had it not been for the need to undergo surgery in September, after he was diagnosed with a chronic SLAP lesion in his right shoulder. He missed ten consecutive ODIs against India - five at home, five away - as well as a trio of Twenty20s against West Indies and India that he might well have captained in the absence of Stuart Broad. Now, however, he is itching to get back involved with the England set-up, as they step up their preparations ahead of the Test series against Pakistan in the UAE in January.
"The shoulder's good, and I've been back training about three weeks now with Middlesex," Morgan told ESPNcricinfo's Switch Hit podcast. "I've been doing my rehab work with it, so I'm hoping to be fit in three or four weeks' time, which then allows us a three-week cushion over Christmas and New Year ahead of the Pakistan series. I've been out for nearly three months, so I've got that cricket bug back now."
Morgan expects to be fit enough to play a full part in the training camp, which is set to concentrate largely on improving England's footwork against spin bowling. Among the ideas that Thorpe intends to put into practice will be batting without pads and using reduced-width bats, so that the onus is on putting bat to ball with decisive movements around the crease, a factor that was visibly lacking during some ponderous performances in the recent whitewash.
"Thorpey always has new and inventive things to work on," said Morgan. "I did a bit of work with him with the Lions last year, and as a left-handed batter in the middle order, I can really relate to him, and enjoy working with him. He has a hell of a lot of experience I can pick on, and that's very valuable."
Morgan himself is one of the few England batsmen whose footwork against spin is rarely called into question, and his absence in the middle-order was cited as a major reason for the team's meltdown during that series.
"I certainly don't think I leave that big a hole in the side, but it's nice to be missed at certain stages," he said. "We were really tested while we were away, and from the outside looking in I felt we lacked a bit of composure and experience at certain times during the innings, and throughout the games. But we've got a young side looking to build on a successful summer, and one series defeat isn't going to peg us back too far, I don't think.
"When you're doing badly you can take any part of your game and over-analysis it," he added. "The important part [in India] was that we didn't get enough runs, and didn't bowl well in certain parts. So it's a broader range of cricket that we'll be looking to develop on this trip. And for myself, having been out of cricket for a while, it's all about hitting volumes of balls. I'm really looking forward to it."
While England as a team was frustrated to lose in India, Morgan conceded that the setback did not resonate quite so much with their own fans as a Test series defeat would have done. "There's a mentality in the public that a lot of our success is viewed if we do well in Test cricket, and that's fair enough because it's the pinnacle for us," he said. "But we play a World Cup every four years and we have aspirations to win that. And that means prioritising one-day cricket as we have done with Tests over the years. In both formats, we're striving to be No. 1 in the world."
Morgan's team-mate, Graeme Swann, isn't so sold on 50-over cricket, having recently called for its abolition, while he also told ESPNcricinfo that he learnt next to nothing from his recent series in India that he would be carrying over into England's subcontinental Test series in the coming 12-18 months.
Morgan, however, didn't quite see the two formats in such black and white terms. "You gain confidence from spending time at the crease in Tests, whereas in one-day cricket you need to have all these shots, and be quite decisive in playing off the front foot or going all the way back," he said. "But you can use some of that in Test cricket so it's important to take on board all the lessons learnt, especially when you've been beaten quite convincingly.
"A lot of the guys out in Australia who had played in the previous Ashes when we got drubbed [in 2006-07] said it had been quite demoralising, but they learnt a hell of a lot. So they took on board what a better team had to offer, and used it to their advantage.
"The crucial part of my game that I take into the Test match arena is the positive way that I go about playing," he added. "I find it kickstarts me, and makes me think in a different way as opposed to batting time, and playing with a positive frame of mind can be very valuable."
Whereas he is established as one of England's most important limited-overs players, Morgan is still - by his own admission - finding his feet at Test level. However, he believes he is in the best possible company to hone his allround game, as he looks to the likes of Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell, whose appetites for runs have helped to carry England to the No. 1 ranking.
"I feel as if I'm always learning in Test cricket, but I feel as if the guys I'm playing with are the best in the world," he said. "I am learning from all these guys who are having a hell of a time, and that can only help me develop."
Eoin Morgan endorses Slazenger V Series equipment. For more information, visit www.slazenger.com/cricket
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo