Eoin Morgan defends rest-and-rotation policy ahead of T20Is against Sri Lanka

Captain says England 'can't play players until they fall over' in 'unbelievably busy' schedule

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Eoin Morgan has defended the ECB's rest-and-rotation policy ahead of England's T20I series against Sri Lanka, calling the current international schedule "unbelievably busy" and insisting that England "can't play players until they fall over".
Morgan, England's limited-overs captain, has had his full-strength squad available for both of their last two T20I series, away against South Africa and India over the winter. While Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Reece Topley are injured (Stokes was not deemed ready for selection despite playing for Durham on Sunday), Morgan otherwise has a full complement to pick from and his side appear to have been prioritised over Joe Root's Test team once again as they build towards this winter's T20 World Cup, with all-format players rested for the New Zealand Tests but available against Sri Lanka this week.
Morgan signalled in March, after the final T20I against India, that he thought it was unlikely that he would have a full-strength side available at any point this summer, but clarified on Tuesday that the IPL's postponement and the "unexpected" rest period it had allowed for players like Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes had led to their availability for this series.
"Planning 12 months ago, or probably eight months ago, we didn't foresee having the squad available in this manner," Morgan said. "Given that the IPL was postponed, guys have had time away from the game and a little bit of a rest period, which was unexpected. As our white-ball summer progresses, we probably won't have it available for very long.
"The white-ball and red-ball sides are both planning towards big events: ours is the T20 World Cup, the guys' in red-ball [cricket] is India Test matches and the Ashes. We'll see full-strength squads selected for them, and they take priority given the schedule and how busy it is."
Asked if he had "sympathy" for Root following a suggestion from Alastair Cook this week that England's priorities "don't make sense", Morgan said that both captains understood the rotation policy and the reasons underpinning it.
"Both of us have a level of understanding, having spoken about it for periods some time ago, full well knowing that there would be areas and fixtures or series when both of us wouldn't have our strongest available squads out," he said.
"Identifying the priority when needed in this unbelievably busy schedule… we play more international cricket than any other team in the world, so we can't play players until they fall over. We want guys to be available and firing, and focusing on getting into form and rhythm for specific series. If all continues to go to plan, we should have that.
"We go through stages when all-format players are missing and some stages where we don't have our full-strength squad available. When you're talking about guys like Jofra, Ben, Jos who have such a busy fixture list for 12 months of the year, if they go down, or are injured or ill, you need to have a back-up plan or an alternative that the team balance is comfortable with."
Morgan also confirmed that he expects England to take a full-strength squad to Bangladesh in October during the rescheduled IPL. "International duty takes precedence," he said. "[That tour] is extremely important. By the time we leave for Bangladesh, we'll be as close as we can to our 15, if not already having to commit to a preliminary squad to declare to the ICC."
Having opted out of England's 2016 tour to Bangladesh over security concerns, Morgan confirmed that he intends to travel this time, but was cagey over the prospects of an international return for the other England player to miss that trip, Alex Hales.
Hales has not played for England since 2019, when a positive test for recreational drugs cost him his place in the World Cup squad and his central contract, but was given hope of a recall in March when Ashley Giles, England's director of men's cricket, said that "the door can't be closed forever" and hinted that Hales could be invited to train with the squad at some stage this summer.
"I think there are conversations to be had between Alex, myself, the coach, and potentially a few of the players," Morgan said. "Trying to get those happening in Covid times has been an issue [but] they will happen at some stage."
As for Root, who last played a T20I in May 2019, Morgan offered him no guarantees but insisted: "There's no way we're ruling Joe out."
England plan to take a 'moment of unity' before the start of the series subject to match-referee approval, mirroring the gesture performed ahead of the New Zealand Tests. But when asked about posts from his Twitter account which appeared to mimic Indian fans, Morgan played down his own involvement in the uproar over social media usage that has engulfed English cricket over the last month.
"If I call someone 'sir' on social media, or anywhere around the world, it's a sign of admiration and respect," Morgan said. "If that's taken out of context, there is nothing I can control or do about it, so I have not looked into it a lot."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98