The decisions by England’s ODI captain, Eoin Morgan and opener, Alex Hales to withdraw from England’s tour of Bangladesh citing security concerns in the country, have caused much consternation and discussion amongst the great and the good of English cricket. Should they be touring? What are the ramifications? Is it that important?
Before I go on, I would like to point out that I am a big fan of Morgan and this blog focuses on his withdrawal from the tour of Bangladesh. The conversation around his leadership in this case has gone beyond the sensible, in my view. Just how important is he, purely as a captain, to this England side?
The turnaround in England’s ODI fortunes since their miserable 2015 World Cup has been nothing short of remarkable. Here were England’s finest being humiliated at the sport’s showpiece event. Again. Plus ca change.
Morgan captained England at that World Cup. He avoided much of the justifiably scathing commentary as the most recent incumbent of the poisoned chalice. The first sips from it could have rung the death knell for his England leadership, but the bulk of the criticism was aimed at the pantomime duo of Paul Downton, then the ineffable MD of the ECB and his appointed coach, Peter Moores, anointed, laughably, as “the coach of his generation” by Downton.
The arsenal lined itself up too easily. Morgan continued. Was that the right decision? Absolutely. It seemed so at the time and it certainly seems so now. Morgan was perceived to be in a lose/lose situation at the World Cup.
Was Morgan’s input the catalyst for England’s change in fortunes post-World Cup?
This is where my doubts creep in. It was the change at the top that resulted in England’s sudden transformation. Moores was booted out. That was the start. He was a bridge to a twice wretched past.
His assistant coach, Paul Farbrace was then installed in temporary charge. Results immediately changed. England, tossed into the Welllington heat like sea lion pups to a pack of ravenous Orcas, were inevitably torn apart by New Zealand at the World Cup, devoured for 123 by an insatiable Kiwi attack. Now, only a matter of weeks later, the hunted became the hunters in the most unforeseeable of circumstances, rattling New Zealand around England in a famous series win.
By the end of that series, Farbrace’s former boss during his stint with Sri Lanka, the Australian Trevor Bayliss had been confirmed as Moores’s permanent successor. The two have a deep, pertinent and successful history. Farbrace had laid Bayliss’s foundations and the building has continued apace.
Whilst Morgan has been the focal point of England’s on-field success, just how important has he been? The sudden change of attitude, outlook and performance of England’s ODI team is, surely, down to Farbrace and Bayliss. In my mind, that is certainly the case.
England’s 2015 World Cup was ended abruptly by Bangladesh in Adelaide on 9 March 2015. In that game, the England XI featured Moeen Ali, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (captain), Jos Buttler (vice-captain), Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan.
All seven have been mainstays of the newly successful England ODI side. If the transformation is at Morgan’s door, why could he not inspire these same charges at the World Cup?
The role of the head coach is so important in modern cricket, with all of the oversight and analysis provided by ever swelling backroom support teams, that the traditional importance of the captain has dimmed. He is the coach’s on-field mouthpiece, the embodiment of his vision.
Morgan was set free by Farbrace and Bayliss. But if hadn’t been Morgan, it would have been another. This transformation in England’s ODI fortunes was destined to happen, with or without Morgan.
So, therefore, I would argue that it is not a big deal that Morgan is missing the series in Bangladesh. Buttler can, and will, execute the same game plans. He’s seen first-hand the transformation and knows how Farbrace and Bayliss operate.
This England side will function as efficiently with Buttler at the helm as it would with Morgan. After which, Morgan will slot straight back in as captain, Buttler having been exposed to some much needed leadership experience – what if something should happen to Morgan that means he cannot continue?
In the world of post-crisis finance, management at banks and in systemically important financial infrastructure organisations, have to take two weeks off each year at a time of the regulator’s choosing. This ensures that their area is not dependent upon that individual for its smooth running.
Are England so dependent upon Morgan that he cannot miss a series? No.
Will Morgan get back in the side?
Of course! The debate should really centre on this question, though. Is Morgan one of England’s best ODI batsmen?
He has played 170 ODIs for England, averaging 37.18 with eight hundreds. Since the World Cup, he has played 29 games amassing 1082 runs at an average of 45.08. Make no mistake, England will welcome him back.
As should everyone else. He’s made a terribly difficult decision to not go to Bangladesh. His record suggests he’s a mainstay of this England side. Farbrace and Bayliss will certainly want him back. The results until now, after all, have been most encouraging. It is those two, however, who have majorly affected the turnaround in England’s ODI cricket.
By Miles Reucroft