England v West Indies, World T20 2016 final, Kolkata April 2, 2016

Eoin Morgan v Phil Simmons - revisited

There is plenty of history between England's limited-overs captain and the man who will coach the opposition in the World T20 final
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The new boy: Eoin Morgan in 2009 shortly after his first call-up for England © Getty Images

When Eoin Morgan takes to the field for the World T20 final, he will again be crossing swords with West Indies coach Phil Simmons, once his coach with Ireland. Neither will have fond memories of their previous alliance, which culminated in a blazing dressing-room row and Morgan, Ireland's best player, being dropped.

"There will be no love lost," says one former Irish player.

Morgan's final day as an Irish cricketer was on April 17, 2009. He spent the day running the drinks against Kenya, brooding under his shades after being left out of the team by Simmons, who was furious that Morgan would leave the next day, the day before the final of the World Cup Qualifier, to play county cricket instead.

This sad epitaph to Morgan's Ireland career reflected the breakdown of his relationship with Simmons.

When he arrived in South Africa for the qualifying tournament, some detected in Morgan a man who thought that he had outgrown Ireland. "He wanted to go home, he didn't really have any interest in being there, he'd just come off an England Lions tour," says one player.

The sense of Morgan passing by was intensified on April 6. He hit 84 not out to help Ireland defeat Canada, but the day seemed more memorable to Morgan for another reason: he was named in England's 30-man list of probables for the World T20.

Immediately after his Man-of-the-Match performance, Morgan declared himself "delighted" and "looking forward to it, if I do get selected".

Even with Morgan in brilliant form, the relationship between him and Simmons was increasingly untenable: a man using Ireland as a stepping-stone to Test cricket with England against a proud man building a team who aspired to become a Test nation.

On April 11, Ireland suffered their first tournament defeat, against Afghanistan. Morgan had made 20 off 41 balls on a day in which, according to one of his then associates, he gave the impression that playing for Ireland no longer held much appeal.

"He was more worried about getting the next flight home than the game," says the insider. Morgan had made his desire to prepare for the county season clear, even as Ireland's other county players had committed to staying for the duration of the tournament.

Simmons had had enough. In the dressing room "he gave Morgan a spray in front of the whole squad," one player recalls, berating him for not caring enough about representing the country of his birth.

"Both were to blame," the player believes, reckoning that Simmons erred in lambasting Morgan in front of the whole team. A week later, few members of Ireland's squad rose early to thank Morgan for his outstanding batting in the tournament. The shame, as another player now reflects, is, "both men helped Ireland qualify for the 2011 World Cup. Both are Irish cricket legends."

The tawdry end to the Ireland career of one of the most brilliant cricketing talents to ever emerge from the Emerald Isle was years in the making, for Morgan had always regarded playing for Ireland as a temporary step.

At the age of 22, Morgan was then one of the most talented young batsmen in the world game, and he could hardly be blamed for feeling that the Ireland set-up as it was then, with limited opportunities that haven't exactly burgeoned in the intervening seven years, was not sufficiently established to provide him with the career that his abilities clearly warranted.

"From the age of 13, I wanted to play cricket for England," he later told The Sunday Times. "I've never felt any shame in saying this is what I wanted to do. And the people at home involved in cricket, they were like, 'Fair play, it's going to be unbelievable if you make it'. So I've never had any shame about this and my father's never had any shame about it."

But at times such manifest ambition irked his team-mates. In one of Morgan's first Ireland matches, as a callow 16-year-old, the entire team were left waiting on the bus for 10 minutes while he met his agent.

After Simmons joined, he detected in Morgan a man who prioritised his England ambitions over Ireland's interests. In 2007 he turned down a spot in Ireland's ODI with India to focus on cementing his Middlesex place. Morgan was not selected for the World T20 Qualifiers in Ireland the following year, after insisting on leaving the tournament for a day to play a televised limited-overs match for Middlesex.

And yet, all the while, Morgan's run-making ability remained undimmed. Indeed, his best-ever form for Ireland came in the World Cup Qualifiers in 2009: a glimpse of the single-mindedness and imperviousness to pressure that has sustained Morgan throughout his England career.

Morgan and Simmons have crossed paths previously since their Ireland days, not least earlier in this tournament when West Indies came out on top, and Morgan twice captained England in Dublin while Simmons was still Ireland coach. But none of those matches had such significance.

Morgan will hope to show his qualities again at Eden Gardens and, in so doing, deny Simmons the WT20 crown.

Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Donna on April 4, 2016, 13:41 GMT

    How could Simmons have erred if one of his team members was not fully committed to the team? I have no problem with Morgan's decision but he should have understood that it would eventually lead to friction. It was inevitable.

  • Miyoshi on April 3, 2016, 15:58 GMT

    3 windies wkts down. England is sure to win this. They are the best team in the tournament. People like Rashid who has 8 centuries in 1st class is batting at #11, WOW, what a team..

  • Syed on April 3, 2016, 14:31 GMT

    Morgan is/was more like old English players, who can't play someone who can spin the bowl. He was a bunny for Ajmal, the way he played in this tournament was a treat to watch, including his struggle against Badree, truly a baggage in this wonderful team. I would have played talented Vince.

  • Ryan on April 3, 2016, 10:53 GMT

    ICC have let Ireland pass cricket by, much like Kenya. Instead of latching on and nurturing them, they have been left to rot.

  • NAYAM on April 3, 2016, 9:22 GMT

    I believe Morgan's talent has been a bit over-hyped. He's not been considered good enough by England to be a part of their Test team which is precisely why he left Ireland for Eng. At best he is an average batsman and a good fielder and his captaincy is nothing special as well. Besides he's never been a main player even for the IPL franchises he's played for. So he should have stuck with IRE and helped them gain ascendancy in world cricket. And it was Ire who had the last laugh in their 2011 WC encounter.

  • Jahan on April 3, 2016, 7:26 GMT

    The team that bats second wins the match. There is nothing to watch in these day-and-night matches. Dew will snatch skills from the bowlers in the second innings. Let's hope there is no dew and we will watch a cricket match otherwise it's only luck and nothing else.

  •   Joshua Olsen on April 3, 2016, 0:41 GMT

    @FIERYFERG that's incorrect. Ireland are undefeated in the ic cup which will create the next test nation and they will most likely will the tournament without dropping a game. It's a logical fallacy to say a bad T20 side is a bad first class/test side. The thing is players like Paul Stirling will end up playing more test matches than Morgan ever will.

  • charlie on April 3, 2016, 0:21 GMT

    To Whom It May concern ; It's wrong for anyone to say that gibson was a total failure as WI coach .Had Simmonds not been reinstated ,we would be saying the same . It's quite obvious other factors were in play ,other than the coaching methods of any coach . Gibson was a successful bowling coach before and now after returning to England ,showing his effect on the team's bowlers ,especially Chris Jordan . What does that say about the whole situation ?

  • Paul on April 2, 2016, 22:49 GMT

    Morgan has been a good captain in this tournament, but his batting has been none existent with two first ballers and no innings of substance, just a couple of cameos. Root, Buttler, Jordan, Stokes, Ali and Roy have been the stand out players with Plunkett contributing in the latter stages. Morgan doesn't make the a list that includes half the team - except as a captain where he seems to be doing a very good job on the field and mentally. Good luck tomorrow. I expect and hope it's the same 11 again and maybe Morgan will have his one good knock of the tourney when it really matters?

  • Chatty on April 2, 2016, 21:14 GMT

    Reading this, I wonder whether Ireland is a real country. I cannot believe Sri Lankans in the 70's say for instance (before SL got test status) think that they would go and play for India. There were certainly world class cricketers in SL those days. Sure, there was no formal route for a Sri Lankan to play for India. But that was also the case because such a thought was unthinkable in the first place. Such acts will be more in the realm of treason. And that comes from the strong national identity. As far as Ireland is concerned, if people there think it is normal to go and play for England, I just wonder whether they fail to think that they are a real country. Just curious.

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