Eoin Morgan won’t be accompanying the England squad on their forthcoming tour of Sri Lanka.
While Kevin Pietersen suffered the lion’s share of the critics’ scrutiny throughout the just-concluded UAE tour (has there ever been a modern-day England batsman laden down with so many ridiculously high expectations?) he at least redeemed himself with a return to runs and the old KP swagger. Morgan failed consistently in all formats. So, in the Test series – an ignominious 3-0 loss – did every one else who purported to be a batsman, but unlike Pietersen and Strauss, the slack the selectors were willing to extend to Morgan could only extend so far.
The wafts outside off stump; the dilemma of whether to go forward or back; that increasingly-exaggerated trigger movement of a man lowering his privates into a scalding bath: this is a man who is in desperate need of runs and confidence. Andy Flower has signalled his disapproval of Morgan’s likely decision to honour his IPL contract, but whether it’s a 20-over match in the steamy heat of Bangalore before 40,000 screaming fans, or a cold April day at Taunton, the bloke just needs to feel bat on ball. Morgan’s IPL stint last year had less bearing on his selection for that summer than his 193 for the Lions against Sri Lanka: an innings in which predicted shoo-in Ravi Bopara (who turned down an IPL contract) could only manage 17.
Morgan’s non-selection for the upcoming Tests in Galle and Colombo, however, does signal a pragmatic ruthlessness on the part of the selectors. For once this is not a change born of panic, or a we’re-making-this-up-as-we-go merry-go-round of addle-brained chop and change. Perhaps taking a leaf from Australia’s book, the England management have a goal in view and a plan in mind. Nurture where necessary; jettison the expendable.
In Australia’s case this meant axing Simon Katich from Tests, giving Cameron White the bum’s rush from T20s – both as captain and as player – and ending Ricky Ponting’s ODI career. Regardless of the seeming unfairness of a couple of these decisions, you can’t say new chief selector John Inverarity does things by halves. It’s an approach that has borne already ripening fruit, with a potent pace attack comprising new blood and rejuvenated older campaigners, a gritty opener in Ed Cowan to complement Dave Warner’s freewheeling pyrotechnics, and new keeper Matthew Wade putting pressure on the increasingly out-of-favour Brad Haddin.
India’s future development remains stuck in neutral so long as their selectors refuse to make such bold moves; you get the feeling their re-ascendancy to the top would be under way already if they had a Flower or Inverarity at the helm.
Of course, as far as England and Eoin Morgan go, one wonders whether the IPL is really the demon it’s made out to be. Runs for Morgan for his Kolkata team could come in useful; England after all have a T20 world title to defend in September.
I’ve never been one of Ravi Bopara’s biggest cheerleaders, but I do think it’s right and fair he is given another opportunity, and while Samit Patel will doubtless lose out to Ravi for the no 6 position, his inclusion in the squad signals recognition of a renewed commitment towards playing for England at the highest level and to leaving the hotel buffet and the Bounty bars the hell alone. I liked Samit’s little cameo in the final T20 which included a lusty six back over the head of Saeed Ajmal; I liked too the clap on the back from KP as he went off. The team were apparently informed after this match who would be going to Sri Lanka; by this point Morgan must have known his time was up.
Perhaps a 50 in the ODIs or the T20s could have saved him. Perhaps not. It’s been a back-asswards tour; players noted for their ability against spin (Morgan and Bell) have failed and England were whitewashed in the format in which they are currently the world’s best. They then proceeded to give expectations another hefty kicking when they clean-swept the ODIs, a format the opposition were expected to favour. By all accounts spirits were high when the England team landed at Heathrow today; that might be tempered slightly when, as is most likely, South Africa wrest away that number one spot when they take on New Zealand in the 3-Test series starting next week.
Sri Lanka would seem the easier prospect after Pakistan. England will have momentum, two warm-up games and no Saeed Ajmal to keep them awake at nights. But after this series I’m predicting nothing, only that Andy Flower has no doubt planned for every eventuality.