The pioneer who reset world order
English cricket has always had a deep relationship with players, who belonged to other countries -South Africa in particular - and turning them into great figures of the game.
Outside of South Africa, however, if there is a country that England should be most thankful to for its role in helping the three lions become a force in limited-overs cricket, it is Ireland.
Before making his England debut in 2009, Eoin Morgan had played three years for Ireland and was part of the ODI World Cup squad in 2007 which pulled off one of the greatest upsets in the tournament’s history when it beat Pakistan on St. Patrick’s Day.
While Ireland remained dear to his heart, a little birdie may have told him that in order to experience the crests and troughs of the cricketing world he had move to play for England and in May 2009, the transfer was complete.
England, at the time, were a middling limited-overs side, whose primary focus remained excelling in Test cricket while trying their best in coloured clothing and so when Morgan entered the dressing room for the first time, he might have felt like a fish out of water.
However, 12 months on, since the switch, he perhaps would have felt the decision wasn’t the worst one when he featured in the side which went all the way in the Caribbean and won their maiden T20 World Cup, under Paul Collingwood.
As we moved into the second decade of the 21st century, ODI cricket was starting to change significantly. 2010 saw Sachin Tendulkar score the first ever 200. In 2011, Shane Watson clobbered 15 sixes in a single innings and scored 185 runs on his own in a match against Bangladesh.
England, however, were refusing to move on with the rest of the world. Barring the rebellious Kevin Pietersen and Morgan, none in the ECB warmed up to their players participating in overseas T20 leagues. The decline of Pietersen in limited-overs cricket in 2012 meant England needed Morgan to step up and be the most dynamic batter in the line-up. But the setup around him still seemed reluctant to think the way he did.
But with just a few months left for the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, England finally pulled the trigger and appointed Morgan as the new ODI captain.
What followed, however, will go down in the history books forever as Morgan’s England suffered their worst nightmare ever with an opening round-exit from the ODI World Cup. The knives were out and England needed a revamp to their white-ball game.
The focus was on the Irishman to bring England back on track and giving him company was an Aussie. Trevor Bayliss knew Morgan from the short time they had spent together at Kolkata Knight Riders and the duo set out to rewrite white-ball cricket in country, forever.
With specific format-based players picked and encouraged to keep the innings moving forward at all points, England, under Morgan, were starting to play a brand of 50-overs cricket that made the world look at the format from a completely different viewpoint.
Teams had played with an attacking approach in the past, but what England brought to the table was different, in that, they focused on piling their innings with sixes, batting as deep as they could and showing everyone that when the plans got executed to the tee, sky was the limit as far as targets went.
There was the odd blip along as you would expect with an approach like this. But Morgan and his men ensured that there was a new vibe to 50-overs cricket with their cavalier approach.
But the idea behind adopting any approach must be to help a team achieve its desired goal. Ironically, for all their power hitting, when the time came to climb the summit it was attrition and luck which helped Morgan become the first England captain to lift the 50-over World Cup in 2019 in arguably the greatest ODI match of all time.
With the world coming to a standstill the following year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, cricketers were forced to live in bio-bubbles and amid restrictions to ensure utmost safety.
Who knows what happened, but for the subsequent three years post the World Cup win, runs from Morgan’s bat dried up significantly in England colours. Two 50+ scores in his last 28 innings meant that there were alarm bells ringing loud and clear.
Yet, hoping for a resurgence, he hopped off to Netherlands for a three-match ODI series with Matthew Mott as the new coach of the limited-overs setup. The coach may have changed, but England’s approach in the first ODI remained the same and almost every England batter pulverised the Dutch bowlers to all corners of the ground at Amstelveen.
Two batters, however, could not quite make most of the feast. One of them was Morgan who fell for a first-ball duck. A second-straight score of nought followed in the next game before a groin injury forced him to withdraw from the dead rubber third ODI.
The mind, however, seemed made up as far Morgan was concerned and he drew the curtains down on his career on Tuesday. From being an outsider, who entered a team comprising of many traditionalists, Morgan had turned England into a fearless group, one which reset the way 50-overs cricket was played worldwide.
That, apart from all the numbers, will be his biggest legacy to the game. go raibh maith agat and Go n-éirí leat Eoin Morgan.