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Morgan a gamble, but it's about time

Eoin Morgan got himself back into form Getty Images

Finally, this feels like the start of a new era for England cricket.

The decision to appoint Eoin Morgan as England's ODI captain - and it would be no surprise if he was also appointed T20 captain in due course - means England will go into the World Cup for perhaps the first time ever with a captain with a natural affinity for this format.

Whereas Mike Brearley, Mike Atherton, Andrew Strauss and the like were marathon runners attempting a sprint, Morgan is as close to a specialist short-form format player as England have allowed to captain for several years. The sort of captain Adam Hollioake or Dermot Reeve might have been had they ever been trusted to lead a World Cup campaign.

But England were always too cautious for that. Even now, they have only made the decision to change when it had become painfully obvious to everyone (except Alastair Cook, it seems) that change was required.

Yet, just as they stumbled upon the Andrew Strauss-Andy Flower leadership era (they were the last men standing after Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores had been sacked), it may be that they have stumbled upon the solution to their limited-overs failings.

Whereas Cook was reactive, Morgan is dynamic. Where Cook was cautious, Morgan is bold. And where Cook is tongue-tied, Morgan is direct, articulate and unafraid to trust his instincts. He has, after all, ignored the advice of Flower and played in the IPL and he has been prepared to publically support Pietersen at a time when others feared to do so. That cannot have been easy within the current culture of the ECB.

Cook has his qualities, of course. In Test cricket, his ability to lead from the front, his determination, his stubborn refusal to know when he is beaten, helped England to victory in India. If he never achieves another thing in the game, he should be remembered with respect for that alone.

"Morgan symbolises a new start, though. He is not tainted by some of the political manoeuvring that saw Pietersen sacked and he is not tainted as being characterised as 'the ECB's sort of man.' Both issues weighed heavily on Cook in recent months"

But those qualities are not so useful in the shorter format. It is not about denial and discipline so much as flair and flamboyance. Just as Morgan will probably never bat for four sessions in a Test, Cook will never blast a 30-ball half-century. It is more likely he will use his new-found free time to help with lambing on the farm than he will feature in the IPL. He was the wrong horse for the course.

Doubts remain about Morgan, too. For a start, his form this year is little better than Cook's. If you exclude a good week in January (he scored 50, 106 and 54 in successive innings), it is actually worse. Since the start of March, he has averaged just 16.35 in 18 ODIs. They are not reassuring figures.

England will take comfort - or desperately cling - to the fact that, in his two games as captain in that period, he scored a decent 40 against Sri Lanka in England and then an encouraging 62 from 47 balls against them a couple of weeks ago. It is less encouraging that England lost both games and, in the first, were bowled out for just 99.

Cynics might also wonder if Morgan was appointed so as not to threaten Cook's Test leadership. The longer-term view would have been to appoint Joe Root to lead the ODI side but, had they selectors done so, there may have been calls for Root to lead in all formats. Morgan, some way from the Test side these days, offers no similar challenge. Even in sacking him, the selectors remained loyal to Cook.

Morgan symbolises a new start, though. He is not tainted by some of the political manoeuvring that saw Pietersen sacked and he is not tainted as being characterised as 'the ECB's sort of man.' Both issues weighed heavily on Cook in recent months.

And Morgan is reflective of a bold, young side. A side that contains the likes of Jos Buttler, Alex Hales and Moeen Ali. A side that might, on its day, thrash any attack to ribbons. An exciting side.

You might even say it was a side in Morgan's image. There will be, no doubt, days when it crashes and burns in spectacular fashion. Days when they yearn for Jonathan Trott's technique and Cook's calm. Days when Ian Bell, retained in the squad to add solidity, has to play the anchor role.

But under Morgan, England will be encouraged to play bold, fearless cricket. Under Morgan, the bowlers will be encouraged to attack as much as the batsman. Under Morgan, aggressive players will have a captain who understand high-risk cricket and appreciates the backing required to encourage it. The side will have a clear, positive message. Under Cook, the foot was always poised over the brake.

So Morgan's appointment is a risk. But England had little to lose. Under Cook they were sleepwalking to almost certain failure. At least, this way, they should go down fighting. And, with a young side, they have the opportunity to build for campaigns long in the future.

And there's the rub. For here we are, once again, a few weeks from a World Cup and the selectors have changed everything. It appears, yet again, as if England go into a World Cup building not for the current event, but for the event in four years.

Morgan has not been dealt a handful of aces. But, all of a sudden, England look a more dangerous side. And a lot more entertaining. The World Cup campaign might not bring success, but it should bring some fun.