Updated:Jun 20, 2022 1:05 am
Eoin Morgan is and will always be an England Cricket legend. Not only does he have the most runs for England in One Day International Cricket (7701 runs) but his revival of the team that finished fifth in Group A in the 2015 ODI World Cup (below Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) to the best team in the World and World Cup winners on home soil in 2019 will be remembered fondly by England fans. That being said there comes a time when every legend has to call it a day and it may be sooner rather than later for the 35-year-old.
With his recent poor form, including two ducks against the Netherlands, ranked 14th in the world, questions have been asked about whether England’s highest ODI run-scorer should be in the side let alone the captain, particularly as England has a wealth of options in the middle order, including players who are in the Test side and thus unavailable for the current series in the Netherlands.
There is a dangerous line between making the right decision and disrespecting a legend, we have seen this in many sides and different sports (Iker Casillas at Real Madrid, Arsene Wenger being hounded out at Arsenal and Roy Keane at Manchester United) and England have to be careful in doing what is best for the team without tarnishing the legacy of an all-time great.
Eoin Morgan deserves to go out on his own terms
England has a rather mixed record at dealing with legends of the game with the polar opposites of the fantastic finale of Sir Alistair Cook at the Oval against India in 2018 and Kevin Pietersen in 2014. The fact that the legend scored a half-century and a century had very little to do with the reception that the left-hander got when leaving for the final time. KP left the England set-up on bad terms and this has contributed to his legacy, most cricket fans remember him as one of the greats, including David Lloyd who calls him England’s greatest batsman, but there will be the few that remember him for the end and this is not right.
In terms of Morgan, it would be most favourable for him to be remembered in the way Cook is, a great who left when he was ready, (I am convinced Cook still does a job opening the order for England right now) and was not pushed out or dropped and ended his career in shame. Only Morgan will truly know when the time is ready for him to go and he has shown he is not afraid to drop himself from the side, knowing that the competition for the ODI side and the T20 World Cup side is greater than ever.
I know Morgan has the support of the players as they know how important he is to the side, Jason Roy even came out in support of Morgan after the second ODI and I am sure he represents the entire squad but the ECB may have to make the tough decision or Morgan, being the wise man he is, may jump before he is pushed.
Now it is only my own opinion that Morgan will stay on and should stay on as he is a great leader and excellent batsman but should his form continue to suffer Morgan and England may have no choice but to part ways, even if it is just for the T20 World Cup.
That being said Morgan is a strong character and has shown that even when the odds have been against him as a captain he has fought back his critics and led England to the ODI World Cup.
Should Morgan give up the captaincy or retire, who should replace him?
Jos Buttler: Current Vice-Captain and the clear favouriteEmbed from Getty Images
Buttler is the obvious choice but much like Ben Stokes, in the test side, there would be worries that the captaincy will have a negative impact on a key pillar of the side. Jos has managed to fight back from a difficult winter in Australia and being dropped from the Test side to smash runs in the IPL and bat exceptionally well for England in the first ODI with his 162* showing that he is a much-changed man from the one whose struggles were laid bear in Australia.
Much like Ben Stokes, he is a fighter, a man who has suffered on and off the field and has bounced back and proved once again why he is one of the best in the world. However, we must remember the strain of captaincy, as well as his keeping duties and important position in the batting order. All of these factors mean that the role may not be suitable for him.Embed from Getty Images
Jos Buttler had a tough 2021 but has bounced back in 2022 in style and could be the man to lead England in the T20 World Cup
That being said the change in captaincy from Root to Stokes has paid dividends with England playing expansive cricket and most importantly winning under the new leadership as they sealed the series against World Test Champions, New Zealand, last week. Stokes is the man in the England team with the most responsibility, even before he became captain, with his role as the all-rounder allowing more flexibility and his workhorse attitude allowing for greater rest for England’s seamers but he has taken to captaincy like a duck to water and his own performance has not suffered. If this could be guaranteed of Jos, then he would be captain right now but the last thing England needs is to complicate Jos’ game anymore and ruin the golden year he is having.
Moeen Ali: A leader and someone who has been reliable for the ODI teamEmbed from Getty Images
Moeen Ali is another option due to his experience and leadership qualities. The off-spinner has more of a filler role in the batting line-up below Jos Buttler and while he is key in the middle overs with the bowl (including the 3-57 he took in the first ODI) the captaincy may be seen as less of a strain on the 35-year-old.
That being said the emphasis should be on 35-year-old, while Jos Buttler is on the older side of 30, he still has at least 4-5 years left at the top of the game, it is unclear how long Moeen has at this level. Not because his performances are getting worse, they are not, but whether he has the desire to keep playing into his later thirties.
England may not need a captain to oversee a rebuild or a long process geared to success but the continued chopping and changing of captaincy is not good for any side let alone one that will be considered one of the favourites for the T20 World Cup in India, this year.
Moeen is an excellent spinner and one of England’s best players but his age would be a concern when considering captaincy and I am sure this would be a factor should any decision need to be made on the future of Eoin Morgan.
This all being said, he has not ruled out a return to Test Cricket which would suggest that the spinner from Birmingham has at least some desire to continue to play for England for a few years to come.
It is also key to note that both Buttler and Ali will be in contention for the Test side in the summer which could make their availability for captaincy in the shorter forms of the game (ODI and T20).
Joe RootEmbed from Getty Images
Now hear me out! I know that Joe Root resigned from the Test Captaincy and commented about the struggles of the role but it would be interesting to see how a batsman who hasn’t struggled under the weight of captaincy in his own performances would do in a side full of confidence and playing exceptionally well.
The issue with Morgan is his own performance and the array of options England has at their disposal, which puts pressure on the Irishman to perform. With Joe Root, his own performance has been exceptional for the last two years and to put him in, as the most experienced captain could be an interesting appointment.
It is important to understand that this is in an ideal world. Joe Root would not take the captaincy because he is not a guarantee in the team to start with as shown by his not being selected for the T20 World Cup. This was partly down to his commitments with the Test side, which have diminished since, but also because England has an array of talent at the top of the order. These options include Jason Roy, Dawid Malan, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Tom Banton, Ben Stokes, Sam Billings and James Vince. The depth is incredible and if England can choose players who will always be available ahead of a regular Test player then they will choose the former, leaving Joe Root unlikely to be in the side.
Personally, Joe Root would be in the T20 side, as shown by his innings in the first innings of the second test against New Zealand he can play a variety of shots and can score a quick strike rate. Having his skill, leadership and variety could be key to England’s chances but it may rely on whether Morgan himself is chosen because both would be seen as playing the anchor role, a role Steve Smith has said he is no longer taking for Australia. This means it could come down to one or the other.
With that in mind, Joe Root is the least likely out of these three options but could be the dark horse that the ECB pick if they think he can really have a great impact in the squad and the team.
Personally, Jos Buttler is the natural and rightful successor as he is unlikely to be selected for Test Cricket with the form of Ben Foakes and re-emergence of Jonny Bairstow and he has the leadership skills and experience necessary to do the role justice.
What has Morgan got to do to keep his role?Embed from Getty Images
Remember who he is!
This is very difficult as all of the best players go through bad spells, including Virat Kohli who has not scored in 71 innings (November 2019), but Morgan has to go back to the basics. His dismissal in the first ODI was careless as he tried to sweep and looked out of form, possibly not expecting to have to bat considering the impressive partnership of Jos Buttler and Dawid Malan.
His second duck was not a golden one but was just as miserable, a terrible shot that was spooned up in the air, it was not a great ball and that is the most worrying. The delivery was there to be hit but Morgan didn’t connect and the fact he had not scored off the previous five balls shows a batsman void of confidence and form.
He must prove to the ECB that he is still a valuable member of the squad and by going gun-ho and getting caught off poor deliveries he is doing the opposite, he needs to play smart and have an innings in which he looks to get his eye in, even he gets a score of 30 or 40 in the third ODI it will show that he holds some value. England already has batsmen like Buttler, Livingstone, Roy and Ali who will smash everything out of the park, Morgan needs some runs first before he can contemplate the big shots.
While many have called for Morgan to retire, I believe the series against India will be pivotal to his future, should he crumble and not perform then it is unlikely he will even be the captain for the next series against South Africa. So far he has been able to quietly get away with poor form because of the opposition of the form of his side but should he repeat his careless dismissal of the second ODI then it will be the right time to call it quits.
What I am hoping for is for him to prove us all wrong, bouncing back in the Third ODI and then carrying that performance into July before being part of a successful side in India but I know the next month will be the most critical of Morgan’s career, should he fail his legacy may be effected should he succeed then another chapter of the remarkable career of Eoin Morgan will be written.