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Eoin Morgan calls for new dynamic as England begin to adapt for 2023 World Cup

Old Trafford offers ideal preparation for Asian pitches, as England turn to World Cup defence

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
10-Sep-2020
Eoin Morgan has challenged his world-beating ODI players to adapt their dynamic brand of cricket to the slow, low pitches on which they will be defending their World Cup title in India in 2023, and believes that three matches against Australia at Emirates Old Trafford offer the perfect opportunity to start putting some new plans into action.
Traditionally, the surface at Old Trafford has been among the more rapid on the English circuit, offering good carry to the quicks and sharp turn and bounce for the slow bowlers. However, the venue has already hosted six internationals in the summer's bio-secure circumstances, the majority of them on sluggish surfaces exacerbated by the chilly Manchester weather, and Morgan was both confident on what to expect in the coming days, and grateful for what it could mean for their preparations.
"It's a huge benefit to us playing at Old Trafford," he said. "Hopefully it will be slow and take a lot of turn. That's very useful considering that's both our weakest point, and it's more than likely what we will play in India in 2023. If we had a choice of grounds to play at for the next period of time, this would be one of them."
England's preparation for the 2019 World Cup was notable for their belligerent attitude to wickets that did not favour their expansive strokeplay, with Morgan himself happy to defend his batsmen even after scorelines of 20 for 6 against South Africa at Lord's, or 8 for 5 against Australia at Adelaide - the logic being that it was better to absorb the lessons while maintaining a positive attacking mindset, rather than let doubt seep into their game-plans on the odd surface that misbehaved.
With India on the horizon, however - both for 2023 and for next year's T20 World Cup - Morgan acknowledges that England will now need to be upfront about their adaptability.
"Going away from what we're strong at will do us some good for a period of time," he said. "It allows us to focus on things that are our weaker side, so creating another dynamic well-rounded game in that manner is important. We need to get better at playing on those types of surfaces, because over the course of the last four-and-a-half years, we had to wait either to play in Cardiff, or Old Trafford, or go away on winter tours to experience [spinning] conditions.
"It is probably a bigger challenge for our seamers than our batters, because our batters have gone through this for the last couple of years," he added. "So hopefully we'll learn more, and upskill what we need to do to get better at playing those types of pitches."
With Morgan himself now fit again after his finger dislocation during the T20Is, and Jason Roy restored to the top of the order following his side strain, England look set to field as many as nine of the 11 men who triumphed at Lord's in that extraordinary World Cup final 14 months ago - and as the captain himself acknowledged, success on that scale creates a pressure to perform like nothing else.
"I think the expectation outside of our own group is probably higher than it's ever been," Morgan said. "And it should be. We're an incredibly talented group of guys and collectively if we perform together, we're a hard side to beat.
"I'd much rather go in with a weighted level of expectation than none at all. We've grown into being comfortable with that expectation over the last few years, and slowly it's crept into our minds as well, just through levels of performance."
However, speaking on his 34th birthday - a milestone that highlights England's onus on succession planning in the coming months - Morgan acknowledged that there had been room for "huge improvements" during their 2-1 win over Australia in the T20Is, not least in the fielding department which he described as "second-rate", particularly during their five-wicket defeat in the final fixture.
The fact that Morgan himself missed that game through injury seemed to suggest that his continued presence as England's chief motivator and tactician is pivotal to the team's success. However, he insisted that no-one is "irreplaceable", and that the close-knit circumstances of England's bio-secure summer had made it even more apparent who are the leaders within England's dressing-room.
Morgan's obvious successors within the white-ball squad are Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes - currently absent on compassionate leave - while Moeen Ali stepped in for the final T20I last week. With Joe Root, the Test captain, also back in the ODI squad, there is no shortage of senior players for England to lean on.
"Jos operates in a different manner [to me]," Morgan said. "The energy that he exudes might come across more passionate and more vocal in the field. Same with Ben. Joe is probably a bit calm and more reserved as well. So you've different attributes that he might see at different stages, and we had a glimpse into what it might look like with Moeen as captain and Chris Jordan as his vice-captain.
"One of the huge benefits of having the same group of 17 players together for an extended period of time is that the guys go through many different experiences together," he added. "The longer that journey, different leaders evolve. Some guys stand up at different times, and recognising when they step into the game is important because it is an area that we've neglected over the years."
"Towards the back end of the World Cup and definitely the semi-final and final, the guys who were leaders within our group stood up both vocally and performance-based when they needed to. So, the age-old saying that you don't really think about the captaincy until you are given it, we're trying to get rid of that stigma and build, not just one leader to be the next captain, but a group that will support that leader as well and drives things forward."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket