Captain Morgan and the incredible English summer

Having watched the World Cup final again, Eoin Morgan says there were moments where England handed the game to the New Zealanders and they handed it back.

Morgan says he hasn’t been a part of the England Test team for a long time and he is happy with that. “The journey that my career has gone on, it has made me win a World Cup and that has been awesome,” he says.   -  Vivek Bendre

It’s always difficult to gauge what’s going on in Eoin Morgan’s mind. The 33-year-old England limited-overs captain appears calm and composed every time you speak to him. Even when his team was going through a rough phase in the mid-stage of the World Cup in mid-June, Morgan ensured he answered all the questions by the scribes with a smile on his face.

Cut to September. It’s been a few of months since England won its first One-Day International World Cup title under captain Morgan. He, however, still struggles to put the experience in words. “The nature and the fashion in which the final was played — I think it’s brilliant for the sport,” he says.

In Mumbai as the brand ambassador for the Abu Dhabi T10 league, which begins on November 15, Morgan spoke about the incredible English summer and the road ahead for him and his team.

 

The world of cricket will remember you as England’s first World Cup-winning captain. Could you please tell us how has the journey has been for you?

It feels amazing. It really does. I still sometimes struggle to put it into words. The work we have done in the last four years, since the 2015 World Cup, and the journey have been remarkable. As a team, we started to create something where hopefully for the future people started to think that we were competitive going into tournaments. It’s just not a one-off thing. Winning the World Cup gives everybody a huge boost. The nature and the fashion in which the final was played, I think it’s brilliant for the sport. What sport needs sometimes is this, regardless of what sport it is. It’s fantastic for the game.

READ : Eoin Morgan: ‘Future for me, hopefully looks bright’

It turned out to be a dramatic World Cup final. When the match went into the Super Over — for the first time in the history of the tournament — did you think that England could actually win the game? How was the vibe in the dressing room?

There were mixed emotions in the change room simply because there were different characters. Different people responded in different ways. Having watched the game again, I know there were moments where we handed it to New Zealand and they handed the game back to us. So on and so forth; it happened half-a-dozen times. There are some significant moments that changed the game — the runs that came off Ben’s (Stokes) bat (as Martin Guptill fired in his throw, the ball struck Stokes’ bat and went to the boundary for four runs. The on-field umpires indicated six runs — two that the batsmen ran along with the four), Trent Boult’s catch, where he stepped on the boundary rope — there were big moments that could have gone either way. Then the Super Over! What an over! It was incredible. It had got everyone at the edge of their seats. We are thankful for those moments.

“What sport needs sometimes is this, regardless of what sport it is,” Morgan says about the World Cup final.   -  AP

 

From being a young boy who grew up in the small village of Rush in Ireland to being England’s World Cup hero — how would you rate your journey?

It feels amazing. The journey I have been on personally has been challenging. But I have loved every minute of it. I have lived my dreams. I signed for the first time in Middlesex at the age of 16 and moved to London. I made great friends and built a life around them. I have a lot of people to thank for getting me there, because that’s where it all started.

After a disappointing end to its World Cup campaign in 2015, England regrouped under the watchful eyes of you and coach Trevor Bayliss. How was the experience of working with him?

Trevor has been exceptional in what he has done and the transformation he has seen the team go through has been extraordinary. Certainly having taken us to World Cup victory is a huge moment for the players, and to have Trevor at the helm, leading things and directing things, is awesome. When he decided to become the England coach, that was the journey and that was the timeline which would hopefully have an impact. He is a very strong character. He knows when he can add value and when is the right time to go.

But now that he has decided to move on, what are your thoughts?

The future for him is extremely exciting. He is in the IPL (Indian Premier League) with Sunrisers Hyderabad. I am sure he will do a fantastic job. His record for Kolkata Knight Riders has been amazing. His record for Sri Lanka has been amazing. There’s no doubt he will continue to get better and better. Winning the World Cup was extremely difficult. We played some of our best cricket, especially in the semifinal against Australia. That was our best game, probably over the last four years. That was a strong Australian team. And then in the final, we defeated New Zealand. It proves that there’s not much difference between the top four teams in the world. We need to continue and try and get better.

What are your thoughts on Ben Stokes. What an English summer he has had...

Ben is a true hero! That’s how I would define his journey. I think this summer for Ben has epitomised the guy he is. He is a huge carer, he looks to play in a team environment, he always gives more than he takes. To help someone who is so good doing that day in and day out really creates a good atmosphere in the team. He works extremely hard. He is always trying to get better. I could not think of a better person for a guy to put in a performance like that in the World Cup but also in the Ashes — in that third Test in Headingley. That was the best Test match innings of all time.

When Stokes got involved in a bar brawl in 2017, many thought that his career was over. But he came back strong and once again contributed immensely to England’s success. Having seen his transformation from close quarters, what are your thoughts?

Ben has been on an incredible journey and being a part of that, watching up close and in person, has been amazing. It shows unbelievable character and resolve. His true self is coming out in every performance — on and off the field. He is a great family man and that’s helping the team.

As Martin Guptill fired in his throw, the ball struck Ben Stokes’ bat and went to the boundary for four runs. The on-field umpires indicated six runs — two that the batsmen ran along with the four. “I could not think of a better person for a guy to put in a performance like that in the World Cup but also in the Ashes,’ Morgan says about the England all-rounder,   -  AFP

 

This season, England discovered a fine talent in Jofra Archer. Having seen him for a long time, how do you assess his success?

Jofra is extraordinary in many ways because he is so young and talented. He has his head on his shoulders. He is a very unique cricketer because he has overcome every challenge he has come up against, which shows he has a lot more to offer. That in many ways is scary because he is competing and winning battles against the best. Just purely as a fan, that’s extremely exciting.

When you guys were playing the World Cup, the England women’s football team was playing the World Cup. The home crowd seemed to be more interested about the football team. So, initially the pressure was comparatively less for your team. Did that help?

Whether the World Cup was at home or away, we were comfortable going into it. We were very comfortable, we just wanted it to start.

You have been a part of the T10 league for two years now. As you gear up for your third stint, how do you see the shortest format of the game emerging? Also at a time when cricket is on the verge of making it to the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics, do you think that the T10 format is the way to go?

Having been a part of two seasons, it has been astonishing to see the reaction of the fans in such a short space of time. When you speak about the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics, I think this format is the best format to actually have in the Commonwealth Games or the Olympic Games simply based on the reaction of the fans. Having been a part of the T10 and having seen how entertaining it is, you can host a tournament in such a short span of time — eight to 10 days or maximum two weeks — and that’s perfect. I can’t think of a better way to sell the games to the audience. Particularly this year, the Abu Dhabi T10 is going to surprise people. It is getting more and more exposure, and is attracting more and more players.

Jofra Archer “is a very unique cricketer because he has overcome every challenge he has come up against, which shows he has a lot more to offer,” says Morgan.   -  AP

 

Despite being England’s World Cup-winning captain, you are not a part of the Test squad. Does it bother you?

I haven’t been a part of the Test team for a long time and I am happy with that. The journey that my career has gone on, it has made me win a World Cup and that has been awesome. I was fortunate to play Test match cricket. I loved it and I wish the guys well.

England pacers Stuart Broad and James Anderson are England’s old warhorses. What are your thoughts on their future?

I cannot comment on Broadie and Jamie because I am not a part of red-ball cricket any more — not as a player, nor as a captain. So, they are the best to decide their future.

There were reports that you might hang up your boots soon. Have you decided anything about the future?

The future for me hopefully looks bright. We have an outstanding group of people. The focus is now on the T20 World Cup next year. Between now and then, we have 18 T20 games. We only have a handful of ODIs. So, every bit of our focus shifts to Australia, where the T20 World Cup is.