Morgan calls for English T20 revamp
Eoin Morgan has said that English domestic Twenty20 cricket has fallen "so far behind" rival leagues such as the IPL and Big Bash that the time has come for a major revamp of the competition to ensure England can stay at the top of the world rankings.
This season marks the 10th anniversary of the introduction of Twenty20 cricket, which began in England in 2003, but Morgan, who is the country's highest-ranked Twenty20 batsman at No. 2 in the ICC lists, does not believe the current Friends Life competition prepares players for the challenges of the international game even though England are ranked No. 1.
Although Morgan did not play a match for Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2012 edition of the IPL, he drew on his experiences of the event over the last three years as well as drawing lessons from what Australia have done with the introduction of a franchise system.
"I certainly think it's got to the stage where it's so far behind now that something needs to happen," he said. "I've been in Australia when the Big Bash has happened and played the IPL and have seen the impact they have had. It's on a different scale."
Morgan said that England now lead the way in preparing Test cricketers - with countries such as Australia now implementing many of the methods used by the ECB - but does not think the same strides have been made in the shorter format by the nation that first unveiled the 20-over format at professional level.
"A lot of the time I was growing up, everything about English cricket was chasing Australia because they were No. 1 for a long time, had great cricketers and they had the infrastructure," he said while promoting the Cricket Foundation's StreetChance programme at his home club in England, Finchley CC in North London.
"We've now overtaken that in longer format in producing Test cricketers which is fantastic but I don't know what happened with the Twenty20. The IPL is in its fifth year and the Big Bash will be in its second so it won't take much to catch up and I certainly think it's needed, especially as we are Twenty20 champions."
Morgan conceded that English cricket does not have to carbon-copy what has happened in India and Australia, but he gave a strong indication that he thinks franchise-style cricket is the way forward for Twenty20 in this country.
"It doesn't need to be exactly the same to either the IPL or Big Bash, it has to work for English cricket," he said. "With our young Twenty20 team at the moment I see young players coming through and if we had an infrastructure in place with, say, eight or nine teams and huge international stars playing you would already have had the likes of Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow rubbing shoulders with great players like Muralitharan or Kallis and not being thrown into a World Cup game and being unfamiliar with the pressure."
Muttiah Muralitharan is actually one of the big-name overseas players who is currently appearing in the Friends Life t20, but it is true to say that the tournament has struggled to pull in a huge quantity of the game's major drawcards.
This is down to a combination of the international schedule - for example Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard are playing for West Indies and Saeed Ajmal, who was set to play for Worcestershire, is in Sri Lanka - but there is also feeling that the tournament is just not as enticing. Morgan, though, is confident that a new-look tournament would encourage many more overseas players to sign.
"The benefits would be massive and I would like to see change," he said. "It's the way forward to improve standards. Other Test nations love coming to England to tour, that's a massive attraction and there would be other financial benefits, too, because the superstars at the tournament."
Despite Morgan's concerns England are producing cricketers who are making a mark on Twenty20 game at a young age: Bairstow has made a promising start to his career, Steven Finn has slotted in with impressive results with the new ball and Hales scored 99 in the international against West Indies on Sunday.
"Alex played superbly and chasing 170-odd is a hell of a feat against such a skill West Indian team who will probably be one of the favourites for World Cup," he said. "It gives huge confidence to a young side but there's a heck of a lot of work to do to compare the side now to one that will face very different conditions in Sri Lanka. We've a long way to go but it's a good platform."
Sport England is investing £1million Lottery funding in the 'Cricket Foundation's 'StreetChance supported by Barclays Spaces for Sports' urban cricket initiative to help young adults stay in sport and stay away from crime and anti-social behaviour www.streetchance.org'
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo