Saturday, September 23, 2023

Zen Master: Eoin Morgan leaves a lasting legacy with England’s victory at the T20 World Cup in Australia

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England’s victory in the T20 World Cup under Jos Buttler was incredible. A comeback win on the brink of elimination from the league England’s campaign has been a special one, and it’s about time former England captain Eoin Morgan got his comeuppance.

By Kingshuk Kusari“He (Eoin Morgan) had a chance to become the T20 World Cup winning captain, but someone blew that,” Stokes had divided the Sky panel after England’s T20 World Cup win. The jack-of-all-trades referred to himself and reminisced about 2016 – a time when England had just learned the ways of modern white ball cricket.

Context was important, as was the joke, as England’s victory at the T20 World Cup off the Australian coast had the hallmark of one monumental individual: Eoin Morgan. Born in Ireland, Morgan later plied his trade with England, rising to fame following the country’s disastrous 2015 ODI World Cup campaign. Morgan rose to fame with his arithmetic, risk-assessment methods that saw a meteoric rise in England’s white-ball game.

Suddenly a team that could not beat Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Australia in the ODI format reached the final of the tournament in 2016. Overwhelming favorites to clinch the title, even reaching the final at Eden Gardens, the dreams fell shattered when Ben Stokes was beaten for four sixes by Carlos Braithwaite.

But there was something about England that night when Morgan put his arms around Stokes’s shoulders, that these guys were here to stay.

Rebuild the ruins

After the 2022 T20 World Cup, Harbhajan Singh praised England. The Indian World Cup winner said Rohit Sharma’s team had to learn how to play the white ball formats of the England side.

And why not. Since 2015, here are England’s results in the white-ball format under the captaincy of Eoin Morgan (until 2021) and Jos buttler

2016 T20 World Cup – Final
2019 ODI World Cup – Winner
World Cup T20 2021 – Semifinal
World Cup T20 2022 – Final

It is quite possible that this team will go deep again in the 2023 edition of the ODI World Cup hosted by India.

The New Era brand

Under Eoin Morgan’s leadership, England found a perfect mechanism. The players were selected to allow the team to hit as deep as possible, and a bowling unit diverse enough to attack and control when necessary.

The brand under Morgan in general was, if you get to bat first, make a huge number of runs and then defend it as hard as you can.

Since Morgan took over, England broke the record for highest total in a men’s ODI match three times, once in 2016, the next in 2018 and then only in 2022. And that essentially became the mark, score a ton of runs and then defend it well.

Eoin Morgan gets to work. (Courtesy: Reuters)

It’s said that when batsmen failed for England, Morgan would go into the dressing room and say, “Don’t worry, next time you’ll get the big runs.”

This gave the team the confidence to play fearless cricket which has given them their results today. That confidence translated into what Buttler did to Naseem Shah in the final of the T20 World Cup.

After being nearly taken out by the pacer in an over four times, Buttler went on to round the bowler for a six over fine leg.

“I stood there Naseem Shah overplayed and missed. Play and miss. And [Buttler says] I can’t play him normally, so I scoop him for a six. Ridiculous! (laughs),” Stokes couldn’t help but laugh at the situation.

Fine-tune all the time

A team can’t stay static and Morgan understood it better than most. As a person fascinated by data, Morgan’s ability to come up with multiple plans was exceptional. England built up a pool of specialist players under his time who could deliver at any time – but with their own distinct style.

Take the example of Jofra Archer.

While the Indian bowling attack lost their footing after the injuries of Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja, England had been without Jofra Archer – arguably the most threatening bowler in the current era – for over a year.

With Mark Wood as a replacement, Jofra was not needed. However, stunned when Mark Wood was ruled out for body stiffness in the semi-finals and finals of the 2022 World Cup, and what were the results?

A 10 wicket win against India and then a 5 wicket win against Pakistan. The core of it? Chris Jordan, who has neither the Wood and Archer fear factor nor the raw talent.

England took advantage of Jordan’s defensive bowling abilities and attacked with Sam Curran’s swing. The team otherwise did well bowling Adil Rashid and Liam Livingstone to get as many over as possible. That worked against India, and Sam Curran stole the show against Pakistan.

Buttler carries on the legacy

It’s an incredible achievement to win the World Cup, maybe even better if you can do it as captain within a year. Buttler’s takeover of the team in 2022 set alarm bells ringing in terms of combination and selections. The start was rocky and some hard decisions were made.

Buttler fired Morgan’s trusted lieutenant Jason Roy and enlisted the exiled Alex Hales. Stokes speaking to Sky after the win pointed out that Buttler’s tactical acumen should not be taken for granted and that he made 95 per cent of the decisions correctly in the T20 World Cup campaign.

A captain forever

Switching isn’t easy, especially for captains the size of Eoin Morgan. For the England World Cup winning captain, however, his latest call-up turned out to be a masterstroke. Morgan letting go of his mantle after playing Ireland just months away from the World Cup gave England plenty of time to think.

Make no mistake, the foundation of England’s T20 World Cup victory was laid by Eoin Morgan – the Zen master who could see into the future.


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