Eoin Morgan and Trevor Bayliss, England’s captain and coach, assess final practice © Getty Images
Eoin Morgan has challenged his England team to finish the journey that they embarked on this time last year, and insists they will go into Sunday’s World T20 final against West Indies in Kolkata with their eyes wide open and their mindsets as clear as they have been throughout a revelatory campaign.
The madness of the media scrum that Morgan faced at Eden Gardens was ample evidence that tomorrow is no ordinary game. However, England’s captain was adamant that the same grounded attitude that has carried the team to within a single victory of their second World T20 crown would prevent them from being overawed by the occasion.
“We’re quite real about things,” said Morgan. “We know it’s not going to be a normal game. Even the semi-final we played [against New Zealand at Delhi], there was quite a lot of hype around the expectation of playing in a final, and I want all of our players to embrace it.
“Tomorrow everything will feel a little bit rushed to start with, but it is important we are in the right frame of mind to slow it down when needed and more importantly execute our skills.”
The expectation going into the final was that England and West Indies would be faced with a slow, low turner, similar to the Kolkata pitch on which India and Pakistan battled out a low-scoring thriller in the group stages of the competition. However, Morgan said he had been encouraged by his initial viewing of the surface, which appears to have the sort of grass covering that might not have been anticipated.
That prospect will doubtless suit West Indies’ stroke-makers as much as England’s – with 146 runs in boundaries in their semi-final win over India at the Wankhede, the prospect of the ball once again coming onto the bat will do them no harm at all.
Nevertheless, for England – whose five matches to date have all come on the relatively pacy wickets of Mumbai and Delhi, which have allowed their four-prong seam attack to grow in confidence as each round has progressed – the less adaptation required, the better.
“I have had a look at the wicket, yesterday not today,” said Morgan. “There is a nice covering of grass and it looks a really good cricket wicket, which is really good news. I suppose coming to Kolkata you’d expect it to have no grass, but it’s nice to see a covering of grass holding it together.
“The wickets we’ve played on in our group weren’t typical Indian wickets,” he added. “I suppose it has surprised me a little. I’m thankful I have reacted to what’s been in front of me and used what’s been effective in games, rather than just sticking with spin the whole time.”
That said, there is still plenty of time for the groundstaff to have their say, and should he wake up tomorrow and discover that the surface has been scalped, then Morgan was adamant he would have no compunction about putting Liam Dawson, England’s third spinner, forward for selection, even though he has yet to play a single international match.
“Absolutely,” Morgan said. “He’s bowled brilliantly. He wasn’t in the squad in South Africa but he travelled with the side and since he’s been out here he’s come on a hell of a lot. We’d have no issue giving him his debut if that was the right way to go about it.
Jason Roy’s nerveless assault carried England into the final © AFP
“If the grass isn’t there tomorrow, I’d back the ability of my players to adapt to any conditions and put in a match-winning performance.”
That attitude chimes with England’s overall outlook in this tournament. And, though the contrast has been done to death in the past three weeks, that willingness to have a go and to remain buoyant even in times of adversity, is so far removed from the dour approach to the 2015 World Cup that it still boggles the mind that England could reform their attitude so swiftly.
“It’s quite a stark difference from 12 months ago,” said Morgan. “It’s hard to believe in some ways. I would never have imagined the turnaround being so immediate or having such an immediate impact. But I’ve always stressed the talent we have in the changing-room and the hard work we put in.
“The key component in that has been the mindset of the players and back-room staff, and it’s rubbed off on everyone. Tomorrow, the opportunity that we do have is a product of that. It’s very exciting. I’m just very proud. Very, very proud.”
On a personal note, Morgan admitted that his own form has been a concern, much as it was in Australia and New Zealand last year when he mustered 90 runs in five innings. However, having been thrown the captaincy at the last minute on that occasion, this time around he has had a full year in which to cement his authority on the team. Even in the absence of a major contribution from his own bat, Morgan is confident of the value he has brought to the role in this campaign.
“I think I’ve drawn on a lot of experience,” he said. “One thing I like to think I do is deal on an individual basis pretty well and keep an eye on the guys, how they’re travelling, and the guys who aren’t playing.
“It’s very important that their contributions and morale around the group is high, given that we’re touring India and a lot of the guys haven’t been here before, it’s important to keep talking about conditions, make sure there’s no novelty and no pre-conceived ideas.”
There will be plenty of novelty on parade on Sunday evening, as England take to the field at the most storied venue in Asia to contest a world final that no-one could have predicted they were ready to tackle.
“It would mean a huge amount [to win it],” Morgan said. “The strides that we’ve made in the last 12 months in white-ball cricket, this would be a great reward for the mindset we’ve shown, the dedication and the hard work.”
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo