Eoin Morgan: England's white-ball depth the best it has been

Captain says selections driven by need to have "experienced guys making good decisions under pressure" for coming World Cups

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
England will play their first ODI on home soil since last summer's successful World Cup campaign when they take on Ireland in a three-match series from Thursday, with captain Eoin Morgan hailing the "unbelievably talented" group of players at his disposal.
Despite six members of the World Cup final XI being unavailable while on Test duty (plus the absence of the discarded Liam Plunkett), Morgan said that selecting the first white-ball squad of the reshaped English summer was "particularly difficult", with a number of young batsmen pushing for inclusion during the intra-squad encounters.
Players such as Phil Salt, who scored a 58-ball hundred for England Lions against Ireland on Sunday, and Sam Hain, who averages 59.78 in List A cricket, were left on the sidelines, as England chose to give further opportunities to a clutch of candidates who were in and around the World Cup group last year, such as James Vince, Joe Denly and Sam Billings.
Morgan said that England's depth in white-ball cricket was "definitely" greater than at any previous time during his involvement.
"Being able to see more and more of the Lions players or the guys outside of the Lions over the last couple of weeks has been exceptional," he said. "There is such a big pool of players who are unbelievably talented. Yes we don't know whether they will succeed in international cricket but you are comfortable selecting them in the squad for if you need them at any stage.
"Selection was particularly difficult. Over the last four-and-a-bit years we've always had tough decisions to make and I think everybody who was left out was a tough call. The standard and skill level that has been produced since guys have come together has been exceptional. It's been way above the standard that I expected given the time we had off. Certainly [Salt and Hain] were unlucky to miss out along with others.
"I think we're blessed with a high-calibre group of top-order batters, not only in the first XI but also sitting in the wings. Even the guys that will play this series and the guys that are left out will probably need some injuries to get call-ups. It's a product of having a consistently strong team over the last period of time, it's allowed players to spend more time at county cricket so your highly-talented players aren't playing a handful of county games and then automatically being called up to the national team... It's a huge positive even though it's bad news for the guys who have missed out."
Without the likes of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, England could have been tempted to include a few more faces from their up-and-coming generation - Tom Banton is the only batsman under the age of 29 in the squad - but Morgan gave an indication of the value he places on experience when asked about the retention of Vince and Billings.
"I think a lot of the perception is that they've almost had their chance and their time has gone - whereas we see it as, going into the next World Cup, we need experienced guys making good decisions under pressure, that's exactly what we're after, and experience lends itself to that. We'll continue to give opportunities but it's to those guys we feel might have an impact in selection on the next two T20 World Cups or the next 50-over World Cup."
Morgan also talked about the "framework" of England's ODI batting, and the importance of selecting players to fill certain roles. "We have an abundance of top-order batters and possibly an area that we need to fill is in the lower and middle order where we need a bit more strength in depth," he said.
To that end, England look set to continue with 34-year-old Denly at No. 5, where he made scores of 87 and 66 in South Africa back in February, and Banton a place lower down - despite his regular role as an opener for Somerset - with Morgan encouraging both to stake claims for further involvement.
"Joe played really well in South Africa, a long time ago but he's still a high-quality player," Morgan said. "Creating opportunities for him is important to us. With Joe, age is not something we talk about - he's fit and agile as anybody. It's just his desire and hunger to play and succeed. I think the opportunities that both of those guys might get will determine how they long they might go or what direction we go in."
While the greater part of England's white-ball focus has recently been on T20, the postponement of this year's World Cup allows for some breathing space, and perhaps a celebration of the format that Morgan and his team finally cracked in 2019. As World Cup holders, Morgan admitted "it creates a level of expectation everywhere we go" - particularly against an opposition like Ireland, hungry to take advantage of their limited opportunities on the biggest stage.
"That sits well with some of our guys but for a lot of our guys, they haven't experienced that, so it's important to recognise what is expected of us moving forward," Morgan said. "Because we want to win more trophies."
Following the ECB's successful implementation of bio-security protocols to enable the Test series against West Indies to go ahead, Morgan said the one-day team were happy to be back playing, even behind closed doors, and thanked Ireland for bringing forward their tour amid uncertainty about whether planned series against Australia will go ahead.
"I think given the context of everything that's gone on over the last five months or so, we are extremely happy to be playing," he said. "Things are moving quite quickly outside of the bubble, I know Middlesex and Surrey over the weekend did have spectators and things like that, so potentially down the line that might progress. But given the context and the serious nature of the virus, we're just delighted both to be back playing but also to have cricket back on TV. I think there's a huge and monumental effort gone into everything to make it happen so we're extremely grateful for that and also grateful for Ireland coming over."

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick