World T20 2016 March 9, 2016

Morgan embraces naivety as England aim high


A year ago to the day, during the 2015 World Cup in Adelaide, Eoin Morgan experienced what must surely rank as one of the lowest ebbs in the often moribund history of England cricket captaincy.

Defeat to Bangladesh - and a duck to boot, Morgan's fourth in nine innings since taking over from Alastair Cook at the start of that year - condemned England to a first-round exit from a tournament specifically designed to protect the big boys from such an ignominious fate.

It was, Morgan admitted, as his side touched down in Mumbai at the start of their latest global campaign, an experience that would live with him for the rest of his career. And yet, all the signs of the past 12 months seem to indicate that England, finally, have learned the lessons that their countless short-form shortcomings have been screaming out to them for a generation. Whether they have learned them quickly enough to challenge at the World T20 in India, however, is a moot point.

"I think it will always be there," Morgan recalled. "That World Cup in particular, not necessarily that day, but the whole trip was a huge learning curve for me. Particularly as a captain going through such a significant loss and such a down period in your career does make you enjoy any sort of success down the line. I think that's been quite significant in the turnaround that we've had, the different attitude, the different group of players and, to a certain extent, the results that we have had."

The upsurge in England's attitude since the World Cup has been startling to behold, even if their results don't quite tally with the intent that they have shown in the past 12 months. A flaccid finish to their recent tour of South Africa - where a 2-0 lead in the ODI series turned into a 3-2 loss, swiftly followed by a humbling finale in the two-match T20I series - undermined many of the gains made in the second half of 2015, not least a rousing limited-overs leg of their tour of the UAE in November.

Nevertheless, a steadfast commitment to youth, best exemplified by the explosive Jos Buttler and the unflappable Joe Root, has enabled Morgan to settle into an elder statesman role and build a team that might well be capable of great feats in the future. For now, however, he is happy for his young squad to fly under the radar, and embrace the learning curve that is about to get very steep very quickly.

"We are reasonably confident," Morgan said of his team's chances. "We have a lot of talent and a lot of match-winners, but one of the things we talked about after the [South Africa] trip was 'are we playing in the right way?' and 'are we being beaten in the right manner, doing the things we said we would do?' and we are. The attitude within the group is still a really positive mindset, and that's very important for us coming into this major tournament."

A gung-ho attitude is all well and good, but at some stage in this campaign - maybe as soon as next Wednesday, when they face a dangerous West Indies team in their opening match in Mumbai - England may well rue the lack of situational experience that most of the other big teams will be able to bring to bear at the crunch moments.

Morgan, with a grand total of eight international appearances in India, is the most experienced player in the England squad, and the only one so far to have sampled the hothouse environment of IPL cricket. Ten of their 15 players have never so much as set foot in India for a senior tour. But far from seeing it as an impediment, Morgan has challenged his players to embrace their naivety and turn it to their advantage.

"I think it just becomes a different challenge," he said. "Not only have our guys not played the IPL, a lot of our guys have never been to India. But we have guys who have toured Sri Lanka quite a lot, been on a recent tour to Dubai and Abu Dhabi where we had a little bit of success.

"And I think sometimes, having experience, particularly in India - because a lot of sides come here, including Australia, and get hammered - can almost scar your perception and [style of] playing within the tournament. Having a little bit of naivety with a huge amount of talent isn't a bad thing."

That's not to say, however, that England wouldn't crave a bit more experience if it was available, and the loss of Steven Finn to a calf strain last week was a particularly grievous blow. His extra pace and aggression has provided a cutting edge on previous one-day tours of India, not least in 2011, when he was a lone shining light in a 5-0 defeat, but Morgan was confident that the recalled Liam Plunkett would prove a worthy replacement.

"Losing any fast bowler before a major tournament is a blow," said Morgan. "I think the benefit we have in that is Liam was fit off the back of it. They seemed to be on rotation at the moment - him and Steven, which is quite a weird thing. At the back we have other guys who are out as well - Mark Wood is coming back from injury, so similar instance - but the fact that we have one fit fast bowler is a really good sign for us."

England's opening warm-up match takes place against New Zealand at the Wankhede on Saturday, and Morgan backed his team to launch their preparations as they mean to continue.

"It's the most expressive we've been in a long time," he said. "We have a lot of talent within the side, we encourage our players to go out and be as brash and aggressive as they can, and take the game to the opposition."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets @miller_cricket

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • markbrop on March 11, 2016, 12:20 GMT

    will123bay: "So much for Strauss's promise we will take one day cricket more seriously. The ECB simply isnt fit for purpose. They still, are 10yrs behind the times."

    Yes DSA informed me of why Strauss had his sudden conversion to the IPL. He has to take it seriously now because the ECB broadcaster is now covering the tournament!

  • Clad on March 11, 2016, 12:18 GMT

    @will123bay. Not sure where you got your info from but England ARE playing 2 warm up matches, as are all the Super 10 teams (this is not arranged by the ECB). They play NZ tomorrow, and then another game on Monday for which their opponent hasn't yet been announced (wonder if it will be Scotland or Ireland if they are knocked out of the qualifiers?).

  • Will on March 11, 2016, 10:31 GMT

    Ive just checked the schedule for T20 warm up matches. All the major teams are playing at least 2 matches. England are playing one match! Says it all. So much for Strauss's promise we will take one day cricket more seriously. The ECB simply isnt fit for purpose. They still, are 10yrs behind the times.

  • markbrop on March 11, 2016, 9:27 GMT

    dezzydezdezer: Markbrop: "I'm afraid you have made a glaring mistake. England have only lost 2 of their last 7 T20's. You can"t include Odin losses they are a complete different story."

    I know they were ODIs but it is still five defeats on the bounce in all forms of cricket. Its not good for confidence going into a major tournament.

  • Ben on March 10, 2016, 23:55 GMT

    They won't win. They are too inexperienced for the sub-continent -- more inexperienced than they might have been. KP won't ever play again for them. But his absence is a symbol of this management-imposed wound in the England profile that hasn't healed, and won't heal until this young squad have matured.

  • Devinderpal Singh on March 10, 2016, 17:54 GMT

    @mark: It's difficult to gauge how serious the 4 teams were taking these matches as there seemed to be some experimentation in batting order, and bowlers used (Chameera and Badree did not bowl), so in general, it's not good that they lost their warm-up match, but maybe they were trying to learn a few things, rather than look for the win regardless, especially Sri Lanka and their recent squad changes. SL face the qualifier first. Also, the West Indies faced India, who are a completely different team, so no surprise that India won.

    Yes, England should reach the semi-finals, but the WI still have a good batting line-up (when Ramdin is not promoted to 4, which surely must have been experimental than their first-choice strategy), despite their injury troubles, and in Gayle, they have the outlier, the single-most destructive opener in T20s, and I imagine the more he fails before the tournament, the more serious he'll take the 1st match, especially after an awful PSL.

  • Dez on March 10, 2016, 17:46 GMT

    Markbrop: I'm afraid you have made a glaring mistake. England have only lost 2 of their last 7 T20's. You can"t include Odin losses they are a complete different story.

  • markbrop on March 10, 2016, 17:10 GMT

    DSA: Really poor performances from the West Indies and Sri Lanka in the warm up games today. Sri Lanka were also awful in the recent Asia Cup so it augurs well for England's chances of reaching the semi-finals.

  • Russell on March 10, 2016, 14:21 GMT

    I really can't believe people are still talking about Pietersen. GET OVER IT!!! He's yesterday's man. There's more chance of me playing for England than there is of him making a comeback. On a more positive note, at least we won't get knocked out before Scotland

  • Devinderpal Singh on March 10, 2016, 14:15 GMT

    Despite playing in India, England should be beating Sri Lanka in this tournament, because if they can't do it with SL's current hindrances, then when will they?

    The West Indies have lost 3 quality T20 players (4, if you include Darren Bravo, but I don't) in Simmons, Pollard and Narine, and have to adapt to such big losses, both in pure T20 skill and their experience in the format, and in India, which, btw, is not mutually exclusive for them. WI are still a threat with the bat, despite the losses, as they still have some of their proven, legit match-winners, especially Gayle, who can single-handedly carry them, and will look to make a statement in his first match (which is against Eng, which is bad luck for them) as he had a poor PSL, but their bowling is significantly weaker now. Taylor, Holder, Brathwaite, Bravo, Russell, Badree and Sammy is still good, but Narine gave them so much consistency (though maybe his action was not correct for a while, who knows). P2 of 4.

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