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Interviews

Eoin Morgan: 'We have a huge amount of talent in all three formats, it's about trying to utilise that'

England's white-ball captain on current power vacuum, planning for the next World Cup, and missing Shane Warne

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
11-Apr-2022
Eoin Morgan is in Abu Dhabi for a week-long coaching masterclass

Eoin Morgan is already looking ahead to England's T20 World Cup challenge  •  Abu Dhabi Cricket

"There's no coach, no managing director of cricket, no selector." Eoin Morgan succinctly sums up the power vacuum in English cricket, one which means the start of the 2022 season arrives with a sense of unease.
Morgan rarely spends the opening months of the season at home and despite going unsold at February's IPL mega-auction, he is overseas as Middlesex start their County Championship season against Derbyshire at Lord's. This time, he is back in Abu Dhabi, the scene of England's T20 World Cup semi-final defeat to New Zealand in November, coaching young players alongside his "best mate" Paul Stirling as part of a week-long camp.
"We played a lot of good cricket during that period," Morgan tells ESPNcricinfo, reflecting on the World Cup. "But we didn't produce our best when we needed it and we've been honest enough to realise we weren't good enough on the day against New Zealand.
"Our guys want to be at the business end of tournaments. They look at sides that missed out even of getting through the group stages - like India, who went in as favourites - and it happens, but we want to be competing against the best at the latter stages."
England were without a number of first-choice players come the semi-final, including Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Sam Curran, Jason Roy and Tymal Mills, but Morgan insists his side had the quality to win the tournament. "The guys that we missed does give it context. But the team and squad we had at that World Cup had the skill to be able to go on and win it.
"We just didn't produce it when we needed it the most at big moments in the game, particularly during that chase. New Zealand built and built and built and we didn't find a way of stopping them doing that."
After spending 18 months in near-constant biosecure bubbles, the time since that defeat has been a welcome break for Morgan. He stayed in the Emirates briefly for the Abu Dhabi T10 and played two of England's five T20Is in Barbados before a quad injury ruled him out of the rest of the series, but otherwise has had the chance to spend some time with his family and getting away from the pressures of the game - not least with his own form disappearing over the last 12 months.
"[I looked at the IPL] as a win-win, to be honest," Morgan says of his non-involvement, barely six months after captaining Kolkata Knight Riders to the final. "Being there at the biggest tournament in the world is an experience that I've used to my advantage over the years and I've had some great memories and experiences along the way. But looking to the rest of the year for us, once I start playing again, it doesn't stop until after the World Cup. I've had a lovely period at home: good family time."
With interviews for the managing director vacancy ongoing, Morgan is yet to be approached about his vision for English cricket's direction of travel but insists he doesn't have "a massive view" on whether or not the head coach's role should be split across format lines, though notes that expectations for the white-ball teams were significantly lower the last time England went down that route.
"A lot of people have jumped to conclusions about appointing a coach but the first point of call is to get a director of cricket in place and then the recruitment process starts after that," he says. "The last time we had a split coaching role, things were very different. It was Ashley Giles and Andy Flower under a different managing director of cricket.
"If you are going to change something, the level of expectation around different series and different formats needs to be communicated really well and completely understood by both coaches and both teams. I don't have a massive view on it but obviously whoever comes in needs to do a good job. We have a huge amount of talent in all three formats of the game and it's about trying to utilise that.
"You're talking about working with the No. 1 or No. 2 ranked sides in the world in two formats - working at the pointy end of things, dealing with the level of expectation that brings with it. Our players have dealt with that really well, but they're hungry to get better and better and be at that pointy end as long as they can."
Morgan's own name regularly comes up in discussions around coaching but he is coy about his ambitions. "Down the line, I always want to have some sort of role within cricket," he says, "but what that looks like, at the moment I still don't know. I haven't identified a role that I'm dead set on wanting to do, but I certainly believe, having been the more experienced player that I have been in the last handful of years, that I have something to offer in that capacity."
As well as a new England coach, he will work with an old one this summer, following Trevor Bayliss' appointment at London Spirit. Morgan's relationship with Bayliss - which he describes as "fantastic" - is well-known but the circumstances are unhappy, with the position only vacant due to Shane Warne's sudden death last month at the age of 52.
"He's an unbelievable player who adds value everywhere. We'd like to see him back on the park and we still know that's a little bit of time away yet, but it sounds and looks like he's building nicely"
Eoin Morgan on Jofra Archer
"It was devastating news," Morgan says. "To be quite frank, it still hasn't really sunk in. Alongside many other people around the world, I'll miss the hell out of him. He's a guy I was very fortunate to spend a lot of time with - a hugely charismatic, inspirational human being that I shared some memories with.
"He's a very infectious guy and probably the thing he was most passionate about was talking about cricket. When he was in charge of the London Spirit, hearing him talk about cricket and learning from him by listening to him was as close as I got to him. We're going to miss him."
Spirit were among the teams to sign a domestic player with a top-bracket pick in this week's draft, bringing in Liam Dawson on a £125,000 contract. Morgan explains the move with a nod to the limited availability of leading international players in this year's competition, spinning their absences as a positive which will allow him to assess how players like Joe Clarke, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Tom Banton cope with the pressure of a price tag.
"With the availability of overseas players, the value and stock of our local guys goes up quite significantly," he says. "Watching the reaction of how they play under those circumstances should give us a nice insight into them. It presents a brilliant opportunity for those guys, but it also adds another type of pressure that we didn't have previously to this.
"In an open draft, where everybody knows your value and worth and there's a number beside your name, it adds a different dynamic. For me as England captain, that's a good insight as to how a guy will deal with the pressure of having the tag of being ranked ahead of somebody else, or picked at a certain position."
There may be opportunities for some of those fringe players even before the Hundred, with England's next white-ball series - three ODIs against the Netherlands at Amstelveen in June - sandwiched between the second and third Tests against New Zealand, effectively ruling any multi-format players out of contention.
"Across every country I think we're seeing different names on teamsheets and a bigger divide between red and white-ball cricket," Morgan says. "That surmises quite nicely where the game is at, and the demands that being an international cricketer takes out of you. It does take a lot of time to work on your game in all three formats. To do that while continuing to play a full schedule of games is proving difficult for everybody. We've actually managed it outstandingly well over the last five or six years - and since Covid, even more so.
"We have a huge identity within white-ball cricket, which shows that our leaders are standing up and playing the way that they said they wanted everyone to play. When the whole team got wiped out before the Pakistan series with Covid, our second-string side led by Ben Stokes came in and replicated how we play and what we do. For everybody involved in building the last five years, that was a huge compliment - probably the biggest compliment that you could pay any white-ball player in that period."
That process continued in Barbados, with Banton, Phil Salt and Reece Topley among those who showed glimpses of their quality having missed out on the T20 World Cup (Topley was a travelled reserve and replaced the injured Mills in the squad, but did not play a game). Archer, who has not played international cricket for over a year due to his elbow injury, was also with the squad and his return later this summer will provide a major boost to England's hopes of achieving their long-term ambition: holding both World Cups simultaneously.
"Being injured for a prolonged period of time, you can become quite distant with the squad but Jofra's stayed close and it's great to have him around," Morgan says. "He's obviously an unbelievable player who adds value everywhere. First and foremost, we'd like to see him back on the park and we still know that's a little bit of time away yet, but it sounds and looks like he's building nicely.
"It's been one of our strongest attributes over the last six years - having the ability to look down the line, not necessarily around the corner. When you look down the line and strategise what you need and when you need it, it gives you an ability to take more risks and develop in different areas. We proved that in the World Cup when we had guys continuously coming in that could replicate what other guys could do, so going through exercises like that [the Barbados series] are extremely important to us.
"Having gone through the process of the 2019 World Cup, we always said that it's not necessarily specific players that we need going in. It's about having as many players in good form as possible. Going into picking that squad of 15 three years ago, we genuinely could have picked 19 guys. That's the position we want to be in heading into selection meetings before the World Cup in Australia."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98