England in Sri Lanka 2011-12 February 28, 2012

Tough path back for Morgan

The left-hander could still become a fine Test cricket but he needs to go away and earn another chance. The IPL won't make that any easier

It takes a lot for this England management to drop someone. Especially a batsman. Loyalty and consistency have been buzzwords around the squad since Andy Flower took over and have served the team well in Test cricket. For Eoin Morgan, though, his position had become untenable after a debilitating time in the UAE where his confidence drained away with each passing innings.

He may have survived the cut for the Sri Lanka tour if he'd rekindled his form in the one-day and Twenty20 matches, as Kevin Pietersen managed with such outstanding results. But, if anything, the middle of Morgan's bat became more elusive as the tour drew to a close. His final innings of 9 in the deciding T20 was painful to watch and the mix-up with Pietersen almost merciful. He finished with 184 runs in 13 international innings on the trip. Some will say Morgan has been singled out but unlike Pietersen and Ian Bell, he doesn't have an impressive Test record to fall back on.

His two hundreds, against Pakistan and India, have been interspersed with too many low scores to suggest he is at home in the longest format. This isn't to say that he won't become a fine Test cricketer but he now needs to go away and earn another chance. And that is where his problem arises.

Morgan has an IPL contract with Kolkatta for the tournament that runs from April 4 to May 27. That means, if he doesn't change his mind and opt for county cricket, he will miss at least Middlesex's opening five Championship matches and six if Kolkatta reach the knockout stages. It could be he won't play first-class cricket until facing Sussex at Lord's on May 30. That would give him two four-day matches before the English season switches to Friends Life t20 mode for a month.

Last season Morgan's IPL stint didn't cost him the chance to replace Paul Collingwood at No. 6. He returned to the UK on the eve of the England Lions matches against Sri Lanka in Derby and then struck a brutal 193 to secure his place for the Sri Lanka Test series ahead of Ravi Bopara. But the difference then was that he had been the next man in line. A recall from his current position will be a much tougher task.

However, Morgan remains key to England's ambitions in 50 and 20-over cricket. There is a World T20 title to defend in Sri Lanka during September and October and a firing Morgan will make that a much more realistic aim. Six weeks at the IPL will do that part of his game no harm; the competition isn't the root of all evil. And even if he did play early season for Middlesex and scored a stack of runs it wouldn't necessarily mean a quick return to the Test line up. Whoever replaces him in the team, looking likely to be Ravi Bopara at this stage, deserves the same length of time Morgan had.

Bopara, though, will know his chances are running out for a substantial Test career. In a quirk of fate he is now heading to the country where he made his debut in 2007-08 and collected three consecutive ducks. With England set to play two spinners after Monty Panesar's successful return against Pakistan, Bopara's medium pace can add balance to the side - and a little breathing space for James Anderson and Stuart Broad - but ultimately it won't be eight to ten overs of wobbly seam that keeps Bopara in the side.

The rest of England's squad has shown some pragmatic thinking from the selectors for what is a short tour with one focus, that of Test cricket. Samit Patel is the utility player who could play a few roles and it's a significant vote of confidence that he is considered as the reserve batsman. He will never completely fit with Flower's ethos of an international but another advantage of being on this tour is that he'll be training, both on technique and fitness, at the highest intensity.

James Tredwell, while a surprise inclusion, is the perfect tourist. A seasoned county cricketer who knows his game and wouldn't let Andrew Strauss down if summoned to the eleven at a moment's notice. He showed that ability at the World Cup when he took 4 for 48 to win the crunch group match against West Indies. Tredwell has continued to toil away in the domestic game making the most of his talent. It's a lesson Morgan may now want to heed.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo