‘Don’t regret’ skipping Bangladesh tour – Morgan
Eoin Morgan, England’s one-day captain, says that his family were “very offended” by the criticism that he received after withdrawing from the tour of Bangladesh on security grounds last year, but has expressed his excitement at returning to national colours with a heavy diet of white-ball cricket in the build-up to the Champions Trophy in June.
Morgan, 30, has not played for England since the visit of Pakistan in September last year, after he and Alex Hales chose not to travel to Bangladesh for a three-match ODI series in October, following terror attacks in the country earlier in the year.
Although Andrew Strauss, the managing director of England cricket, had assured the players that there would be “no consequences” for missing the tour, there was a considerable backlash in the English media over Morgan’s failure to lead his side from the front, especially in light of the unprecedented levels of security granted to the team.
Morgan, however, maintained that he didn’t regret the decision, insisting that he had been unaffected by the furore even if his family were less comfortable with the backlash.
“My way of dealing with it was to get away from things, which I did,” he said. “My family saw a lot of it and were very offended, but that is part and parcel of being in the limelight.
“As a decision, I am very comfortable with [it] and it’s a decision I considered all consequences when I did, and sitting here or sitting at home, wherever I would have been sitting, I’d have been very comfortable with it.”
Eoin Morgan found his form for Sydney Thunder in the BBL last week © Cricket Australia/Getty Images
In Morgan’s absence, Jos Buttler led England to a hard-fought 2-1 series win, and the regular skipper was full of praise for the manner in which his stand-in had stepped into the breach.
“I think he [Buttler] really enjoyed the leadership role within the group,” Morgan said. “The proof was in the performances. I thought he was outstanding [in] the way senior players reacted, Ben Stokes in particular. In the first game when Ben played a screamer on a wicket that wasn’t that easy for us to come on and start the series. The younger guys reacted well and the senior guys led the way.”
While Morgan believes, with some justification, that his success in leading England’s revival in white-ball cricket has earned him some leeway with the selectors, his absence in Bangladesh not only came at the end of a year in which he averaged less than 30 in 25 matches across all formats, it offered an opportunity for other candidates to stake a claim to a middle-order berth.
In particular, Jonny Bairstow and Sam Billings can expect a fair hearing ahead of the Champions Trophy, while Ben Duckett, who scored two fifties in Bangladesh, was deemed by coach Trevor Bayliss to have been “desperately unlucky” to miss out on the limited-overs tour to India.
“We’ve a couple of series in the next five-six months which is going to be a big part in our lead up towards the [Champions Trophy],” he said. “It is exciting that we’ve only white-ball cricket between now and then. The major part of that is getting some cricket under my belt in the run into the series, which I’ve managed to do. I am really excited, and everybody within the group is as excited as I am.”
If there were any doubts about Morgan’s current form and focus, then his sign-off performance for Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League last week was a good indicator. His final innings before departing for India was an unbeaten 50-ball 71 that culminated in a match-winning last-ball six. Despite that, however, he knows not to take his England place for granted.
“Nothing is a certainty. Absolutely nothing,” he said. “I’d like to think that things have gone pretty well for us, and over a small period of time we have had a little bit of success, like I have added. But, again we have a fantastic group of players – very talented, very driven and they want to do well.
Right up there in the “little bit of success” were England’s series wins against Pakistan and Bangladesh. After England had made 444 against Pakistan in Trent Bridge, Hales said he had to pinch himself in disbelief. Morgan believed England’s mindset had remained positive in the past as well, but their recent consistency had caught even him by surprise.
“I think before we played a game together as a group, which was just under two years ago now, there’s always that nerves and anticipation about what’s to come,” he said. “I think the general mindset and attitude in which we went about our business was the right way, but the skill level doesn’t always deliver behind that. I’ve been surprised that the level of skill and consistency we’ve shown between now and then… I think it is impressive.
“Everybody within the group, and how well we’ve grown and learnt in that time, has been accelerated by the bit of success. Obviously, playing abroad is different challenge, a challenge which everybody is looking forward to. India is a great place to come and win the series. It means that much more because they are very, very good at home.”
The scars of the drubbing in the Test series, he felt, wouldn’t have a bearing on this team. “I think they are very motivated individually. Regardless of which format has been played first, the side has generally improved as the tour has gone on. Since the side has been together, there has been no backlash or repercussions from any performance earlier in the tour. I don’t expect it to have any effect.”
Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo