Eoin Morgan has revealed he will return to India after England's two-match ODI series against Ireland to make himself available to Kings XI Punjab before coming home for good in preparation for this summer's ICC Champions Trophy.
Morgan, the England limited-overs captain, will arrive in England in time for a training session on May 4. Then, having played in the ODIs against Ireland on May 5 and May 7, he will return to India for two more IPL games on May 9 and May 11. He will then report for a training camp with the England squad that starts on May 14. ESPNcricinfo understands that the ECB are also considering allowing Jason Roy and Sam Billings to return to the IPL though no firm decision has yet been made.
"I was pleasantly surprised to hear I'd been picked-up in the IPL auction," Morgan said. "I wasn't expecting to be picked up so it was good news. The perception of things was that I'd miss a lot of the IPL but in actual fact I only miss four days. I'll only miss two games out of the 14 which is not very much."
There was, Morgan says, never any thought that he might skip the Ireland ODIs and remain at the IPL. While a few other England players have been allowed to do that, Morgan suggests that he and team director, Andrew Strauss, agreed that it was important the side had the same leadership as often as possible going into the Champions Trophy in June. Having missed the three-match ODI series in Bangladesh last October, Morgan has not had the opportunity to play with the likes of Ben Duckett, who could yet force his way into the squad.
"It was a collective decision to come back," Morgan said. "I think it's important for me to come back for those two because, while we might not put out a full-strength team, there are players involved who might then play in the Champions Trophy. It's a good opportunity for me to play with guys who are coming through."
Had Morgan not found a team in the IPL auction, he had been expecting to return to the Middlesex side for the start of the County Championship season, which would be his first red-ball action since July 2015 though he has conceded that the likelihood of being picked for a return to the Test side is slim. Having not played for Middlesex during the Championship-winning campaign of 2016, his availability will create quite a selection dilemma for their team management when he finally returns.
"I was preparing to play in the first two first-class games of the summer for Middlesex," Morgan said. "And potentially there's an extra one being scheduled against Durham at the weekend and Cambridge again after that. Now I'm looking at playing three Championship games in August.
"Yes, I probably could become a white-ball specialist if that's what I wanted. But it's not, not at the moment. It might be down the line, but it's certainly not now. I think Test cricket has gone for me. I don't think I'll ever play Test cricket again. But I think it's important for me to strive to keep working on my game in red-ball cricket, to continue to work on the first 30 balls I face in a white-ball game. Maybe not for T20, but for the 50-over game it is.
"While that desire is still there, the idea in my mind that I need to keep working on the red-ball game, I'll stick with it. And yes, the aim is to captain at the 2019 World Cup. That's where all the plans are going towards, what we're working towards as a side. It will be great to be a part of it."
All 14 members of England's squad will feature across the two warm-up matches against a WICB President's XI in St Kitts on Saturday and Monday, though each will be played as XI v XI List A games without the use of substitutes. The seam bowlers, in particular, will be rotated so as not to put them under any unnecessary strain.
It was the batsmen who suffered on Friday, though. Training on surfaces described as "quite spicy" by Morgan, several batsmen sustained blows to the gloves though no damage was reported.
"They're not the best surfaces we've trained on," Morgan said. "But as long as the guys can bowl and field, I think that's more important that getting prepared for our batting."
Meanwhile Morgan suggested this ODI series may come a little too soon for Alex Hales as he recovers from a broken bone in his hand. But Morgan remains keen for Hales to join up with the rest of the squad in the next few days.
"He will go back and play some county cricket after this," Morgan explained, "and we want the team together as much as possible."