Bairstow-Warner bromance like Ronaldo-Rooney - Eoin Morgan

Shared IPL experience has helped Ashes rivals put aside past differences, says England ODI captain

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Jonny Bairstow and David Warner celebrate after Bairstow's hundred  •  BCCI

Jonny Bairstow and David Warner celebrate after Bairstow's hundred  •  BCCI

Eoin Morgan believes that the unlikely alliance between Jonny Bairstow and David Warner at Sunrisers Hyderabad has shown the value of IPL cricket in breaking down the barriers that can exist between seemingly implacable international rivals.
A record 11 England players are featuring in this year's IPL, and of those that have played so far, the majority have been putting in headline-seizing performances - not least Sam Curran, who justified his £800,000 price tag with a match-winning hat-trick for King's XI Punjab against Delhi Capitals.
But few sights have been more extraordinary than that of Bairstow and Warner embracing in the middle of the pitch during Bairstow's stunning innings of 114 from 56 balls against Royal Challengers Bangalore last week.
The idea of those two players having any sort of personal relationship would have been unthinkable by the end of England's last tour of Australia in 2017-18, which was marred by accusations of sledging that veered into personal abuse, as well as a claim (later played down) that Bairstow had headbutted Warner's then-opening partner, Cameron Bancroft, in a bar in Perth.
But, after serving a 12-month ban for his role in Australia's ball-tampering scandal, Warner says he has returned to the game "refreshed", a claim backed up by a run of 85, 69 and 100 not out for Sunrisers in this year's IPL - with Bairstow alongside him in a century opening stand on each occasion.
Morgan didn't deny that the pair have had their differences in the past, but was also unsurprised that they'd been able to put them aside for a common cause - something that other sportsman, most notably footballers, have long had to do in their competing duties for club and country.
"The two of them are team-mates for the moment but that is the beauty of playing franchise cricket," Morgan told ESPNcricinfo. "You do get to rub shoulders with guys you never thought you'd play with.
"Thinking about it since in different sports, in football it happens all the time. Compare Portugal's game where Ronaldo got Wayne Rooney sent off [at 2006 World Cup], and had to go back and play for Manchester United two weeks later. It's trickier circumstances, but I'm sure Jonny is learning a huge amount from other guys that he's rubbing shoulders with."
Morgan believes that the success of England's players at this year's IPL is a vindication of the ECB's more relaxed policy towards franchise cricket, and says that their performances will add to his team's overall confidence when it reconvenes at the end of the month for their final World Cup preparations.
Others who have impressed this year include Ben Stokes, who was named MVP [Most Valuable Player] in 2017 after being signed for a record £1.7 million by Rising Pune Supergiant, and Jos Buttler, who was a sensation for Rajasthan Royals last season, scoring five consecutive half-centuries after being promoted to open the batting, and earning a Test recall for the English summer directly off the back of those performances.
Morgan himself went unsold at this year's auction, and will instead be plying his trade for Middlesex in the early weeks of the County Championship and Royal London Cup. But, having played for KKR, Sunrisers and King's XI in six previous IPLs since 2010, he has long been an advocate of greater English involvement in the competition. And now, he believes, the balance has shifted from England players using their time in India to soak up the experience around them, to imprinting their own styles of play on the tournament.
"In the last three or four years it's been a huge step forward for us," Morgan said. "We've not only had a lot of guys in demand for IPL teams, we've had guys go out and be contenders for MVP of the tournament, and that says a huge amount about the cricketers we are producing and the guys going out there with aspirations. It really does raise the standard of our own game within the international team."
Sam Curran was another who will have learnt a huge amount from his first few weeks at the IPL, Morgan said, adding that he had been impressed with the mental strength on display in his matchwinning role for KXIP on Monday, particularly after enduring a tough maiden outing in the competition against Rajasthan Royals.
"Playing the first game and then getting dropped for the second was a huge test for him as a character," Morgan said. "And having to come back in and perform, clearly Sam was up to it, and was in the right head space. The IPL is a great opportunity, not only for him, but for other guys who've spent some time out there to gain experience."
Curran's exploits are unlikely to propel him into the reckoning for England's World Cup squad, which will be named at the end of the month, but with scope to fine-tune the 15 once the ODIs against Pakistan and Ireland are complete, no late selection bolter can be entirely ruled out.
Jofra Archer, however, is a stronger possibility for a call-up, having completed his England qualification last month. While Morgan has, in the recent past, played down the prospect of disrupting a settled squad so close to the big event, he reiterated the recent party line, expressed by Trevor Bayliss in the Caribbean last month, that form would be more important than reputation in the final reckoning.
"Over the last two years, we've evolved past a squad of 15 players who have contributed to the team at any stage, and moved to 17, 18, 19 players," said Morgan. "It's never been easy to announce a squad of 15 and that will be the case for the summer. We've always said that guys who contribute at that time will be selected, and I don't think anything will change.
"There's a lot of cricket to be played with Pakistan and Ireland, and I think there will be opportunities for guys who aren't necessarily nailed down in the team to go and prove that they are in good form, and that they offer a lot to the team for that World Cup."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo @miller_cricket