From the dumps to World Champions- Eoin Morgan's England script a remarkable transformation
March 9, 2015, England lose to Bangladesh in their penultimate World Cup game and get knocked out from the group stage itself. Humiliation! Hall of shame! Outdated for modern one-day cricket! All this and more doom and gloom were predicted for the England cricket team.
July 14, 2019, England pip New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup final and win their first-ever 50 over tournament at the home of cricket, Lord's. Jubilation! Hall of fame! Trendsetters for modern one-day cricket! England are booming and looming large as the team to beat in world cricket.
How could this have happened? Four years is a lot of time but going from not being good enough to be in the Top 8 to become the best thing since sliced bread was never going to be a piece of cake. England knew there was a gruelling road ahead of them and it was definitely going to be an uphill task to transform a team which had been ingrained to play a form of 50-over cricket that was seen in the 80s and 90s.
For the founding country of the game, ODIs were an extension of Test cricket while the rest of the world had come to terms with the fact that 50-over cricket is more closer to T20s. This, in spite of the fact that previous head coach Peter Moores was known as someone who used to rely on data a lot.
This transformation required a complete overhaul. And the same happened as Andrew Strauss was appointed as the director of cricket, Trevor Bayliss with a brilliant CV was appointed as the new head coach while they also went past players like Gary Ballance, James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Only 5 players who were part of the 2015 World Cup managed to get a spot in the current champion side. One among those was the captain Eoin Morgan, a centrifugal figure in both the deepest of slumps and the loftiest highs.
Strauss, Morgan and Bayliss were hurt. The new Australian head coach Bayliss didn't have the baggage but he knew that there was a huge challenge in front of him. He was coming on the back of Indian Premier League and Big Bash League titles with Kolkata Knight Riders and Sydney Sixers respectively. A World Cup final with Sri Lanka to boot too. Hence, the 'impressive' CV.
While England were used to scoring 250-260 and that clearly didn't work, it was more a case of the mindset and tactics being wrong as opposed to a lack of extravagant players. The likes of Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid who were instrumental to England's triumph were always in and around the set-up.
The most important player, someone who became a bonafide star in the in world cricket, Jofra Archer was fast-tracked by Andrew Strauss himself. He knew that the Sussex youngster had some X-factor and hence England's residency qualification criteria was reduced from 7 years to 3 years. If not for Strauss, Archer would have been just a T20 globe-trotter until 2023 instead of bowling the super over and helping England win a World Cup.
And it would be a crime to ignore Eoin Morgan's contribution. He gave his players a free hand and never had them worried about failure. Trust he did when England when they were bowled out for 153 against South Africa at Lord's in 2017, 113 against West Indies at St Lucia in 2019 or the rare occasions when the team collapsed for a low score. Rare it was because England's uninhibited batting mostly saw them scoring 300s and 400s while going onto breaking world records (Like the highest ODI total in history) on the way to establishing themselves as a fearless outfit.
The confidence and mentality to continue with the same philosophy even after failures has to first start within himself, the captain. Morgan and England never abandoned the ship even if it was sinking as they knew that the captains in the team were good enough to eventually have the vessel afloat. Even after his personal failures (averaged 29.81 in 2016), the English captain continued to be attacking, to bombard teams with his positive batting.
Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler all had their dips in form but they were given a long rope. Adil Rashid didn't have a great time for a majority of the World Cup but the trust placed in him reaped rewards as he came up with a clutch performance against Australia in the semi-final.
The inclusive nature of Morgan and England wasn't restricted to backing players during their tough times. Given the fact that the side involved a lot of players from different countries, different backgrounds and cultures, the captain along with the backroom staff needed to get them together to play for the flag, for England. When there were some issues amongst England's bowlers regarding the fast-tracking of Jofra Archer, England eventually managed to cut down the differences and focus on the ultimate dream of winning the World Cup.
When asked if the side had the luck of the Irish, "We had Allah with us too, I spoke to Adil (Rashid) he said we definitely had Allah with us. It epitomizes our team coming from diverse backgrounds," Morgan said.
At the end of the day, those words give an inkling as to how tightly knit a group they were. Also, according to Morgan, this is exactly why Alex Hales wasn't included in the World Cup squad after being suspended for recreational drug use.
"Unfortunately, Alex's actions have shown complete disregard for those (team) values.This has created a lack of trust between Alex and the team.On Saturday we got together as a group of senior players to discuss the effect the news coming out would have on the team and the culture. We all agreed the best decision for the team was for Alex to be deselected."
The Irishman also managed to embrace the favorite tag and never succumb under immense pressure during press conferences even when the team had a small hiccup during the halfway stage of the tournament.
All this shows how much work England and Morgan had to do behind the scenes to create the best environment wherein the players could thrive. It definitely wasn't an overnight process. Now that Morgan has brought England the ultimate prize, his future isn't a clear one. Will he continue to be the captain? Will he be good enough to find a place in the England team for the next World Cup? While those things remain to be seen, one thing is for sure and that is Morgan's stature as a trailblazer in the annals of England's cricket history. Morgan will also be relieved to have experienced the lowest of lows and the highest of highs in a space of four years.
Like former US president Richard Nixon famously said, "Only if you have been in the deepest valley, can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain." Surely, Morgan can attest that statement.
Also read – World cup winners list