Oh, how quickly sport moves. As England approach their first major white-ball tournament since that incredible 2019 Cricket World Cup triumph, their brilliant captain Eoin Morgan now finds himself under the spotlight. Their Men’s T20 World Cup campaign will go a long way to deciding whether the glittering Morgan era is nearing its end.
So indifferent has his form been of late that the Irishman has even admitted he could drop himself during the tournament in the UAE and Oman. “It’s always something I’ve said. That is always an option,” he told reporters recently. “I’m not going to stand in the way of the team winning the World Cup. Obviously I’ve been short on runs, but my captaincy has been pretty good as it goes.”
While Morgan succeeded Alastair Cook for the 2015 World Cup as a result of the opener’s poor form in the white-ball game, the 35-year-old’s captaincy has indeed given him a very different standing within the dressing room. Those who have been party to his day-to-day activity suggest he is a born leader first and a cricketer second, with his ability to smash runs in the middle order a more than handy addition to his armoury.
And that’s why he will head into Saturday’s World Cup opener against the West Indies with the backing of coach Chris Silverwood and the entire England squad. Morgan’s leadership of men was a key element in the 50-over success in 2019 and could be a vital factor in them justifying their status as one of the favourites this time around. With oddsmakers Betfred, only India at 2/1 are more fancied than England’s 4/1.
There are other questions about England beyond the captain himself. With no Ben Stokes due to his hiatus from cricket and missing Sam Curran through a back injury, there is no tried and tested pattern to their lower order before the tail kicks in. The lack of all-rounders could be a serious issue when Morgan and Silverwood come to deciding on their XI in the later stages of the competition.
At the top of the order they should get enough runs out of Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow to set them on their way in most matches, while the ball will be in good hands with the likes of Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Adil Rashid. It shows the strength in depth that even without the likes of Stokes, Curran, Moeen Ali and Jofra Archer there are lots of other options available, even if Morgan would like to have more players who can contribute in both innings to make both the batting and the bowling lineups deeper.
After their devastating loss in the 2016 T20 final to Carlos Brathwaite’s four successive sixes, England still have the motivation to go and break new ground, even if their 2019 win came in a more revered form of the game. And given what is riding on the next three weeks for Morgan personally, this is still a captain and a team with much to prove.
Victory would cement Morgan’s name among England’s all-time cricketing greats, but a disappointing return could well hasten the end of a golden era.