In what I hope is the first of a series of interviews with cricket commentators and pundits, The Cricket Blog spoke to Eoin Morgan about the language of the game. Following a stellar career which he drew to a close in the summer of 2022, former England captain Morgan moved into the commentary box ahead of England’s triumphant World T20 campaign in Australia. It would’ve been remiss not to touch upon that success, one he played such an instrumental role in shaping, as well as discussing the language he used in the changing room and the commentary box.
Since England had won the World T20 a few days before we spoke, that was the obvious starting point. Did Morgan wish he had been out on the pitch? “Not one part of me wanted to be on the pitch,” he immediately answers. “I loved watching every ball of the tournament and just being able to watch cricket as a fan, which I haven’t been able to do for some time. I was able to just ride the emotion through the group stage then the elation of destructing India in the semi-final; I was pleased the final wasn’t too close in the end. But I really enjoyed watching.”
One word that Morgan returned to during his commentary stints during the tournament was ‘intent’. What does he mean by that? “Intent is a mindset which creates clarity of direction and performance to yourself and the team,” explains Morgan. “We wanted to move away from scoreboard pressure. Too often people become bogged down by the scoreboard. Intent is a mindset that eliminates this.”
So, is this something taken from dressing room to commentary box; does Morgan use the same language on TV as he did with his teammates? “Not consciously,” he says. “I try to talk naturally. There’s a lot of language that I used as a player and a captain, but obviously not all of it. I try to take a player’s mindset into the commentary box, though. T20 is driving the game so fast, so I think it’s important to have that colour and to offer an opinion. The game isn’t standing still.”
Now sitting on the other side of the fence, joining the ranks of the media, do personal relationships affect the way in which Morgan feels able to talk about the players he’s commentating on? “No, not at all,” he says. “I wouldn’t say anything that I wouldn’t say in the changing room. People were always extremely honest in the changing room, so everything I say in commentary is something that I’d say directly to them. I’ve been in changing rooms where guys are out of form and I’ve been there myself; you’re the first to know why.”
With that in mind, I enquire about the impact media criticism had on Morgan as a player. There were times when he was out of form (“that was most of my career!” he jokes), and there were questions being raised about his place in the side, especially with the plethora of white ball batting talent coming through in England.
“I didn’t know what was being said and I never engaged with cricket news,” he asserts. “It worked for me. There were other guys in the team, like Jonny Bairstow, who would read everything! He would take it all in and try to use that to his advantage.”
Bairstow gained a lot of media attention during the 2019 World Cup campaign when he said that the media were, “waiting for England to fail… It’s a typical English thing to do, in every sport.” England had lost a couple of games and needed to beat India at Edgbaston to keep their tournament alive.
Did that have any impact in the dressing room? “I really didn’t know anything about that until after he’d scored his century (against India at Edgbaston) and he’d celebrated the way he did,” says Morgan. “I just found it quite funny. He’d used that to his advantage.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Eoin Morgan was speaking at the launch of The Festival of Cricket, scheduled for the 14-16 July 2023. For more information and tickets please visit: https://www.thefestivalofcricket.com/