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West Indies v England

The invincibility around Eoin Morgan’s white-ball captaincy is starting to evaporate

by Shashwat Kumar 3 minute read

When the 2021 T20 World Cup caravan rolled into town, Eoin Morgan – the undisputed leader of England’s white-ball setup – was going through a wretched run of form. However, there was a sense of invincibility that still surrounded his leadership.

There existed a general consensus that he was the right person to marshal the English troops despite his drop in form. Morgan and his England teammates echoed that sentiment – before the competition, during it and after it too.

A few months have passed since then with England losing their sole white-ball excursion, a 3-2 T20I defeat to West Indies as Morgan continued to scratch around for runs before an injury brought about a premature end to his series.  The greater quandary this time out, though, is that Morgan’s place in the side might not be set in as much stone as it was going into the last World Cup.


Morgan struggled in the T20I series against the West Indies

The England white-ball captain played the first two T20Is against the West Indies and didn’t really cover himself in glory. He got stuck at the crease in the opening game, taking nine balls to get off the mark and ultimately departed for a 29-ball 17.

A match later, he scored at better than a run-a-ball but a 12-ball 13 is hardly befitting of a player of Morgan’s quality either. A quadriceps injury has since ruled him out of the series but England haven’t necessarily missed his services. And that is perhaps where the situation has gotten complicated for the England skipper. Failures are a part of T20 batting but for Morgan, the worry is how consistent those failures have come all around the world over the past year or so.

The England skipper can blow hot and cold

Over the years, Morgan has developed a reputation of being an extremely volatile player. At his best, he can carve open even the best bowling attack on the planet. At his worst, though, he can look out of sorts, struggle to time the ball properly and seem as susceptible as any to the short ball. His patchiness in rotating strike against spin has also become a sticky area of late.

To add further context, Morgan averaged 38.55 in T20 cricket in 2020. He notched up 694 runs and struck at 148.92. Thus, the most recent precedent of Morgan firing on all cylinders hasn’t exactly slipped into distant past. The following year, however, he could only rack up 567 runs at an average of 17.17 over a whopping 46 games. That is not a small sample size. His strike rate also dipped to 118.61, with almost all of his previous frailties coming to the fore. Hence, England have had to hedge their bets, hoping that Morgan will, at some point, regain his best form. And at 35, that is no guarantee.

Morgan brings immense value as captain

The obvious trade-off then revolves around the value he brings to the plate as England’s captain. For years, his position has remained beyond scrutiny. Rightly so too. He has not only revolutionised England’s white-ball approach but he has also taken the Three Lions to dizzying heights in limited-overs cricket, culminating in one of the most famous days in the history of English cricket at Lord’s back in 2019.

He has a knack of making the right calls at the time time and has a noticeably calm demeanour during high-pressure moments, something that must surely rub off on his teammates. However, there is another twist to this story that emerged in the Caribbean. In the two T20Is that Morgan played against the West Indies he admitted that he wanted to bat first – a remarkable admission considering his propensity to win the toss and field. It’s been nearly six years since England won the toss and opted to bat first in a T20I under Morgan’s captaincy. The newfound desire to bat first is a tacit admission that the desperation to chase regardless of conditions and opposition hindered England going into last year’s T20 World Cup.

Buttler and Moeen have deputised well in Morgan’s absence

As things stand, Jos Buttler is perhaps at the peak of his powers in white-ball cricket. He also seems to have developed into an astute skipper. Moeen Ali, meanwhile, has also led England in fine fashion against the West Indies. Hence, England might be tempted to pass over the baton now. But that is easier said than done, considering Morgan’s pedigree. That Morgan also has a proclivity to emerge from his deepest nadirs and scale the top almost instantly, makes the decision tougher.

Just looking at his batting, it seems that the left-hander’s abilities are on the wane. There haven’t been enough signs indicating that a characteristic upturn is around the corner either. But when talking about Morgan, there might be an inclination on England’s part to back him.

It’s just that the sense of invincibility, which surrounded his captaincy and spot in the side till the 2021 T20 World Cup, might just have evaporated a touch. Morgan might not say it in front of the cameras but he, more than anyone else, might also be aware that the clock has started ticking.

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