Eoin Morgan: Building 'deeper, stronger squad' part of England's T20 World Cup planning
Chance for fringe players to grab opportunity as focus turns to Australia 2022
Eoin Morgan, England's captain, says that developing his side's bench strength during their five-match T20I campaign against West Indies is more important than pushing for an outright series win, but he hopes that the team environment that has been fostered in recent years will be one that allows the results to look after themselves.
With Saturday's opening fixture taking place only days after the end of England's Ashes campaign, the squad in the Caribbean is missing many of the men who featured in the T20 World Cup in the UAE in November, including Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes. Sam Billings has belatedly linked up with the squad after featuring in the fifth Test at Hobart, but is unlikely to feature after his lengthy journey.
Their absences offer a rare chance for some of England's fringe candidates to make an early case for the next T20 World Cup in Australia - including the likes of Tom Banton, Phil Salt and Saqib Mahmood, whose dramatic four-wicket debut for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash in December continued a run of English success in the competition that augurs well for November's global tournament.
"The one benefit we have, we know our guys play well in Australia, so projecting towards that makes us feel a little more at ease," Morgan said. "It makes us feel a little bit more comfortable. We know what works out in Australia. So planning the method that we're trying to implement will be very similar to the method that we used.
"A lot of talented guys will get opportunities throughout this series which is very exciting, not only for the team, but for them as well," he added. "They don't get a lot of opportunity to go through a process like this so, for our long-term planning, as we strive to have deeper, stronger squads, it's very important. The group that we would normally take to a World Cup has been together for quite some time, so the planning behind that is important to us."
Asked if he was more concerned about player development than the series result - linked, as it is, to England's No. 1 ranking in T20Is - Morgan conceded that the balance was a tricky one to strike. However, having impressed in their run to the semi-finals in the recent T20 World Cup, where their loss to New Zealand could be attributed in part to some misfortune at the toss, Morgan said he was confident the new recruits would quickly absorb the white-ball squad's high standards.
"The whole tour is one where the development of our game is more important than a series win," Morgan said. "We've gone through this process before, and identifying the level of intensity, and our performance is far more important than the result."
"Normally the result looks after itself, and going through that process has kept the identity of the team strong," he added. "The mantra in which we play has created a very healthy environment, and hopefully guys that come in can feel comfortable enough to try and apply that."
However, Morgan also acknowledged that it was important to reset after a global tournament, and not simply assume that the players that had served the team well at one event - as was the case after England reached the semi-finals at the 2017 Champions Trophy, and again when they won the 50-over World Cup in 2019 - were the right ones to take them onto the next.
"Sometimes it takes longer than other situations, but you need to have courage to go through this," he said, "to be vulnerable enough to go back and learn, and go through the same process we did four years ago and then two years after that, in order to see long-term results."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket