Tuesday, November 30

Eoin Morgan is a game changer and she deserves the chance to go out on her own | World Cup T20

OROne of Napoleon’s favorite generals, the glamorous and reckless Joachim Murat, was famous for going into battle in front of his cavalry regiment carrying nothing but a small whip. Despite all the bloodshed around him, Murat maintained that he never personally wounded a single enemy soldier, though presumably that whip might be a bit of a nuisance. In an unfortunate twist he ended up being sentenced to death for treason, his last request for a hot bath filled with cologne and a firing squad made up of his own captured men.

It is always difficult to resist the temptation to package sport and war in the same sentence, to make exaggerated comparisons between acts of military command and to stand with three caps to decide whose turn it is to go bowling. Still though, watching Eoin Morgan lead the Kolkata Knight Riders to the Indian Premier League final with scores of 4, 0, 5, 13, 2, 2, 0, 8 and 7, it was hard not to feel a little angry. that Murat energy. Here he comes, the noncombatant general, riding into battle with only a whip in hand. And preparing now to lead England into their T20 World Cup campaign against the West Indies on Saturday day.

This is not a criticism. Morgan is 35 years old. It retains its shine, its authority as a brilliant organizer. Surely he would have retired from international cricket by now had it not been for the Covid-induced delay in this World Cup. But the uncomfortable truth is that he has 142 runs in his last 12 T20 internationals, hasn’t scored a goal against a first-class attack in over a year, and has that tendency every time the pin turns fast and bounces to spin. like an arthritic gardener hitting a cloud of mosquitoes with a garden broom.

Such is his skill and intelligence that it’s not hard to imagine Morgan finding a way to make this work, to get a few shots out of what’s left. But whatever England’s fate may be during the next three weeks of dew-ridden knockout cricket, this is what is really going on right now. We are in the process of becoming post-Morgan. The most transformative individual presence in the short form history of English cricket – still, in some ways, an oddly remote, sphinx-like figure – is about to disappear. How will it feel?

Eoin Morgan hits during his innings for England v Australia at Lord's in 2012
Eoin Morgan hits during his sizzling innings for England against Australia at Lord’s in 2012. Photograph: Tom Shaw / Getty Images

Morgan seems underrated right now. Public opinion has changed a bit. He has already spoken this week of his willingness to drop in mid-tournament should his form become a problem, amid murmurs of approval on the social media pitch. It’s part of Morgan’s presence that he doesn’t give you much, he’s never asked to be loved, he’s never approached that way. There is no Morgan tribe, no Morgan fandom in the style of modern sports celebrities. The closest he has come to gaining popularity in England were some short and direct comments on the multicultural makeup of his team at a World Cup at home.

Some will now see him as something of a company man, very happy to accept the cancellation of the Pakistan tour, repeating the England and Wales Cricket Board line on the Hundred. Certainly Morgan has only followed his own interests, from ditching red ball cricket to ending Alex Hales’ international career for rather self-righteous “team culture” reasons. He has been vindicated at all times in this, he has delivered wonderful shared moments. For that, he will always be revered as the gold standard of stubborn leadership. But it feels like a pretty cool hit these days. Is there something else?

There are two things worth saying about it. The first is about Morgan’s own hitting, which has been somewhat overlooked as an influence. It is easy to forget that in his time he was a revolutionary. England had only played 20 full T20 internationals when Morgan, in his second game, swatted and threw and hit his way to an 85-of-45 shot against South Africa in Johannesburg. This was something completely new. And 10 games later, England became an unexpected T20 world champion. Some of the older players have spoken of that victory as adrenaline and flukish. Eleven years after the Eoin era, does it still look like this?

Morgan was a defibrillator on that team. But it was also all too often an anomaly in the first act of his career in England. Two years later, he was putting Brett Lee in the Lord’s seats en route to 89 of 63 balls, but he did so on an England team that still had Cook-Bell-Trott as the top three. It took a nervous breakdown around the 2015 World Cup to clear the covers, for England’s cue ball cricket to indulge in this obvious note of enlightenment. With this in mind, there is something a little strange about the idea of ​​Morgan as simply a strategist, a facilitator-chief-prefect. The cultural shift that followed was an extension of his presence, the strength of the Morgan-Trevor Bayliss personality undoing decades of fear and tortured thinking.

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The magnitude of this is easy to overlook. Scroll back and Morgan has been the captain of 20% of all England ODI wins. The good times are almost exclusively Morgan moments. It will be fascinating to see how that plays out now. The captaincy in T20 cricket is a vital thing in itself, albeit with its own caveats. As T20 strategist Jarrod Kimber has pointed out, Morgan was a good captain because he trusted Ben Stokes in 2019. He was a bad captain because he trusted Ben Stokes in 2016. Imagine.

English cricket has a history of pleasing its sun stars. Morgan is much more than that. But that scented bathtub is already bubbling. If the current swaying of the desert is really going to be his farewell, it deserves our indulgence, our affection; and most of all, the ability to go out with your shield wherever you lead.


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