NZ v End, Group A , Wellington February 19, 2015

How long a rope for Morgan?

England's problem - one of their problems - is that they are not strong enough to afford passengers and Eoin Morgan is fast becoming one

Play 01:29
Matt Prior believes Eoin Morgan will be unflustered by the focus on his poor form

In the bad old days of England cricket, a man with four ducks in his last five innings would have been history.

In the days when England used 29 players in a series - the Ashes of 1989, for example, - players could barely survive two successive failures. Graeme Fowler's last four Test innings were 49, 201, two and 69. Andy Caddick was dropped after taking 5 for 67 in the first innings at Port of Spain in 1998 and never played again after a 10-wicket haul in the Sydney Test of 2003. It was chaos.

England's continuity of selection policy was a key part of their success in the years that followed. It provided security for the team. It allowed people to play without fear. It remains a sensible stance. But, taken to an extreme, it creates a blockage and stifles the development of new players.

So for many months - long after it had become obvious to the impartial observer - England found encouragement and promise in Alastair Cook's clear decline. They made excuses for his struggles and ways to mitigate for his failures. As a general role, as soon as you hear someone described as "a resilient character" you know they're in trouble.

The intention, no doubt, was honourable. But there are consequences to such actions and by persisting with Cook for so long, the selectors gave his eventual replacements far less time to learn their trade ahead of the World Cup. It is hardly surprising that Moeen Ali and Gary Ballance, in particular, are finding it hard to gauge the pace to bat at the top of the innings. They have, relative to many of their opponents, only just started in the job.

Now England are doing something similar with Eoin Morgan. Despite Morgan's poor record over the last year or so - worse that Cook's - the management have chosen to accentuate whatever positives they can find and try to ignore the evidence that is beginning to pile up in front of them.

It has become fashionable, in England circles, to repeat the line that Morgan scored a century just five ODI innings ago. As if this run of poor form is a recent blip. As if the critics are jerking knees and over-reacting.

Maybe. It was a fine innings, certainly. A reminder of what a fine player Morgan can be. But the fact is, that innings was not a return to the norm. It was a rare spike on a graph that shows a relentless downward slope. It was one of only two scores of 50 or more (the other was an innings of 62 in Colombo in December) dating back a year and 26 ODIs.

Morgan's record when England win is even worse - a highest score of only 33 in the same period - and only once has he passed fifty against a Full Member in a winning cause since September 2012.

Which tells us one thing: Morgan is not winning England any games.

And that's the point of being in a team. It is not about individual milestones. It is not about Steven Finn's hat-trick in Melbourne - possibly the most meaningless hat-trick in the history of international cricket - or face-saving innings. It is about shaping matches. It is about directly intervening in them to help your side win.

Morgan isn't doing that. The unpalatable fact is that Morgan - temporarily - has become a passenger in this side.

Eoin Morgan's form has been an important cause for concern for England © Getty Images

England's problem - one of their problems - is that they are not strong enough to afford passengers. They would be better allowing Ravi Bopara or Chris Jordan to come in as allrounders. Or give Alex Hales, who is batting nicely in the nets, a run at the top of the order.

It doesn't mean they have to drop Morgan forever. As Bopara could tell him, a player can be dropped and recalled in a single series.

So they go into the game against New Zealand desperate for Morgan to contribute. Not just because it is a game they really could do with winning - their fragile confidence might not recover from another reverse like that suffered in Melbourne and defeat leaves them with no room for error in the remainder of the competition - but so they don't have to take another awkward decision.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo