Eoin Morgan May 21, 2009

Switching colours, switching hits

He's got all the shots and then some, and now he's got a bigger, better platform to showcase them on

Eoin Morgan has already played in a World Cup and has 23 ODIs under his belt, but the next international match he plays will be the one that shows he has really hit the big time. After a career with Ireland, he has switched allegiance across the Irish Sea and his chance for a second debut is now that little bit more imminent after Kevin Pietersen's Achilles injury.

Never mind the convoluted route he has taken, Morgan's call-up comes at an opportune time. England have been striving to find batsmen capable of innovating in one-day cricket who also having the power to clear the boundaries. A couple of weeks ago, in front of the television cameras, he scored a breathtaking 161 in the Friends Provident Trophy against Kent. He showed an astonishing array of shots, with the ability to change his mind at the last minute, depending on how the bowler responded, with a shot he calls the "change up".

He sweeps powerfully in the conventional style, but also paddles and scoops in a way that certainly won't be found in any MCC coaching manual. He has also tried the switch hit. "I've only played it once and it did go for six, but it's not in my locker at the moment," he said.

With the swapping of international colours Morgan is following in the footstep of Ed Joyce, his former Middlesex team-mate, who played 17 ODIs for England between 2006 and 2007. "Ed's a very good friend of mine and I have spoken to him a lot since I was given the nod," Morgan said. "He's wished me well and said, 'Go out do your own thing.'"

Being his own man won't be a problem for Morgan. It is what has brought him to the selectors' attention. There is a confidence about him that belies his 22 years. "I certainly look to express myself and have done that throughout my career, especially in one-day and Twenty20, and it's something I'll look to continue doing."

Although ultimately his ability to transfer success from Associate and county level to the international scene will show whether Morgan can step up a level, the early evidence suggests he has the broadest range of shots outside of Pietersen. Importantly, too, he has the confidence in his conviction to play them. "I have got out to the shot and I will get out to it, I haven't perfected it, but I'll certainly continue to play it even if it gets me out," he says of the reverse sweep.

Those skills have their roots in the traditional Irish sport of hurling, which Morgan played twice a week for three years in his early teens. Hurling involves using double-sided sticks called hurleys. "I read an article one time that said that sportsmen take skills they learn at between nine and 12 years old, from whatever sport they play, and take it with them throughout their career," Morgan explained. "It was just a coincidence that I played hurling at school when I was younger, and the actual grip for hurling is the same as [for] the reverse sweep."

Morgan and Joyce faced each other during the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, but despite Ireland's fairytale performance, where they managed to beat Pakistan and Bangladesh, Morgan struggled against top-quality attacks and ended the tournament with 91 runs at 10.11.

Yet that trip makes him considerably more experienced than some of his team-mates in next month's ICC World Twenty20. Eight of England's 20-over squad have never appeared at a world event, so perhaps Morgan can pass on some tips about dealing with the pressure, and more pertinently, about how to win important matches. Regardless of the lack of runs, he was part of a close-knit unit that made the most of their talent and enjoyed the experience. None of that can be said of any England World Cup campaign (50 or 20-overs) since 1992.

"It was just a coincidence that I played hurling at school when I was younger, and the actual grip for hurling is the same as the reverse sweep"
Eoin Morgan on his innovative strokeplay

"I've come a long way since then," Morgan said. "I didn't have a great time at the World Cup, but I'm looking to make that right now. I've certainly played a lot of cricket since then. My time away at the World Cup and playing against the big nations has helped me out quite a lot.

"Staying at hotels with the likes of South Africa and Australia when I was 19 or 20 was a great experience, and just watching how the teams operate. You can learn a lot and take a lot of confidence from that."

Despite his World Cup problems, Morgan's numbers for Ireland were impressive: he had an average of 35.42. However, England has always been his ambition from the moment he went to Dulwich College to further his cricketing education when he was 13. A few years later he was part of an Irish Under-17 team that played against an England Under-15 side at Eton, where he scored a hundred and was spotted by Jason Pooley, Middlesex 2nd XI coach at the time.

"From the time I went to school here this has been where I've wanted to be," he said. "I was always going to play for England, obviously helping out Ireland along the way was a good experience. I've got a lot of cricketing heroes who are English, and I've always looked up to Graham Thorpe."

England's gain, though, is clearly Ireland's loss, and there was very little they could do about it. For someone of Morgan's talent there is currently only one path to follow for full international recognition and the potential of a Test future. Even though Ireland are the strongest Associate nation, the prospect of them joining the elite is still a distant ambition, and Morgan couldn't afford to spend the best years of his cricketing life waiting for something that may never happen.

"I have some fantastic memories and have taken a lot from playing with Ireland," he said. "But it was inevitable and everyone at home knew that path I was going to take. When I made the decision it was accepted and encouraged."

The first phase of Morgan's international career is over and it has served its purpose, but this next stage is going to show what he is really made of. England will hope that he brings with him the luck of the Irish.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Scott on May 23, 2009, 14:11 GMT

    At the very least the ICC should organize a home and away timeless test series between Ireland and Bangladesh. If the Irish can hold their own against the Bangladeshi team, then why should they be allowed to hold permanently test status? If they are destroyed by Bangladesh, then the ICC is vindicated and Ireland will have to do more before they get another shot. Another idea is to have a European equivalent of the West Indies team, a team that plays test cricket featuring players from Ireland, Netherlands and Scotland- I'm sure you could make an almost passable team out of their players. Or a short term mode with an Associate all star team playing as the 10th test team. Also need to make sure that the future EPL (and I hope IPL) includes a provision where every team needs to play at least one player from an Associate nation. All these ideas are aimed at bringing the standard of world cricket up, hoping for more & better test cricket

  • Scott on May 23, 2009, 14:02 GMT

    Odd though it may seem a test playing Ireland is great for England. It takes significant pressure off of England, as the only team who regularly hosts cricket in the June-August season. Having Ireland play test cricket means more teams play in the northern summer and are forced to play test cricket year round each (a disadvantage that England has had to face for years now and it has made it difficult to compete with the likes of Australia, India and South Africa who every so often have breaks in international cricket). If the Irish were to share the English county scene, and become say the 19th and 20th counties it undoubtedly improves the Irish game, plus both the Irish and English a feature to promote the domestic game and that's the first step- give the Irish access to the county game with their own counties, then ramp up their access to international cricket. Great idea also to allow former Irish players no longer playing for England to play for Ireland to finish their careers!

  • Cameron on May 22, 2009, 13:24 GMT

    England are simply a World XI team.

  • Michael on May 21, 2009, 21:40 GMT

    Ireland has 4 very popular sports in gealic footbal, hurling, soccer and rugby. If cricket wants a chance of challenging these and others the Irish team must be playing the best teams consistantly whether in ODI or test. I cant understand why teams touring in England cant even play four day warm up games against Ireland. Surely they would as good as the teams the counties put out. I would also hope the ICC could issue temporary test status to see the level Ireland are at and see what progress they make.

  • Rod on May 21, 2009, 19:10 GMT

    What exactly are the rules for players from countries that have no test cricket? Is an Irishman automatically qualified for England, or could he choose another country? What about a player from, say, Namibia? Is he automatically qualified for South Africa? It would seem sensible for the test playing countries to have some sort of "catchment area" so that good enough players from other countries could get the opportunity to play test cricket.

    I'd also like to see an arrangement whereby these players could still play for their original countries if not required by England. For example, Joyce seems to have fallen out of the reckoning for England but would be an asset for Ireland. I wouldn't consider this at all on the same level as jumping around test-playing countries, and I think it would help development.

  • Simon on May 21, 2009, 10:33 GMT

    I'm over the moon for Morgy, he's a top cricketer and a lovely bloke ... he's got all the skills and I hope he gets a decent opportunity to showcase them. Best of luck Morgy!

  • Daniel on May 21, 2009, 10:11 GMT

    Now I understand why New Zealand still has Test status. It is so Australia can not select Daniel Vettori.

  • Derek on May 21, 2009, 9:43 GMT

    One day England will be a 'world' cricketing force; after all they now have the best South African rejects, A Zimbabwean and WI as part of their coaching setup and now poached Morgan to go with Joyce.

  • Ross on May 21, 2009, 7:06 GMT

    How are players from non-Test nations ever to play Test cricket if they do not move to a Test playing nation? Cricket is very much a minority sport in Ireland, and realistically there will never be a First Class structure there. We must not dilute the quality of Testy cricket further, and a strong national FC game is be a prerequisite for Test status. Unless they want to stay part-time, young Irish cricketers have to come to England to play in the Championship, and if they want Test cricket they have to play for England. I accept it must be very frustrating for Irish selectors, and the current arrangement is certainly messy, but I don't see any way round it. Also if, as I suspect, Eoin goes on to be a substantial player for England, it may encourage more Irish kids from the next generation to take up the game. Anyway, good luck to him, he is a young sportsman you hope succeed because he comes across as a very level-headed committed young professional, and a thrilling talent to boot!

  • Dan on May 21, 2009, 6:35 GMT

    One way of sorting it is to fast-track Ireland's Test status. It seems inevitable now that they will be officially recognised as the 10th best cricketing nation in the world, and Zimbabwe will be stripped of their Test status. Having another Test nation would aid development in Ireland, but also relieve the pressure on other nations who are playing too much cricket. Ireland have some amazing young cricketers coming through, and some older ones who are stepping up in the ODI's. Porterfield, Botha, Johnston, White, McCallan, Stirling, the O'Brien's and Rankin are all top draw cricketers. Provision should be made for Morgan to return if they are given Test status to aid development, because surely we should foster our budding nations, not hinder their growth by letting England poach their greatest products.

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