*My favourite player series is where we ask you to tell us who your favourite player is, why they're your favourite player and your best memory. This is a brand new series that is open to anyone and everyone, so if you're interested, get in touch on Twitter. Without further ado here is Kieran Cooke with his favourite player. Make sure you follow Kieran on Twitter @KieranCooke8
Morgan: English Cricket’s Unsung Hero?
One of the most common questions asked when coaching young cricketers is who is your favourite player? Who do you look up to? Who do you want to watch when you switch on the tv or go to see a game? Questions such as these are great to contextualise coaching points and make them relevant for individual players, to keep them interested in all aspects of the game – watching and playing. If we delve deeper the notion of role models in sport are an interesting one. More specifically those players who are pivotal but seem to go more under the radar. It's unsurprising to hear names such as Stokes, Root, Bairstow, Buttler, Archer. Names such as these seem to roll off the tongue in a modern cricketing context. But it does surprise me that England’s World Cup winning captain is hardly ever listed. I think to myself, why do young players not appreciate Eoin Morgan!
Perhaps, it’s because the woes of 2008 are a largely forgotten era. A time where England’s white-ball cricket was a confusing place. A time when it was usual for ODI selection to be used to see what a player was like before test selection. A time when only Kevin Pietersen would regularly score big and score quick. Before 2015’s revival, supporting England in white-ball cricket was not an easy thing to do and at times pretty uncomfortable! Other countries were scoring quickly, hitting 6s and using innovating new shots, whereas the most an English batting line up could muster was hitting fielders and setting distinctly mediocre scores. The first time I remember thinking wow at Morgan was in 2009 against South Africa, he scored quicker than what English batsmen seemed to score (67 off 34) and had been 62 not out in the game before. Morgan became a player I loved to watch in the 2010 T20 World Cup, he top-scored against WI and Ireland and then NZ before being not out in the Semi-Final and Final. It seemed England had found an answer. Morgan looked like he could be the finisher we needed.
This was confirmed when the Aussies came to town later that year. At this point, England weren’t widely considered as good ODI chasers and having grown up with the Aussies being especially dominant in ODI cricket, beating them was a huge achievement! The first ODI saw us 97-4 chasing 267. Typical for England. Up steps Morgan, counter-attacking in a way that we didn’t do. This didn’t make sense; English players consolidate after early wickets but here was Morgan 50* off 45 balls. When Morgan drilled the ball past Ryan Harris to bring up his hundred and finish off the chase, in a game many had already written off! He had only used 85 balls to win it for England I, like many others, was sold. Between then and 2015, he scored 3s hundreds (124* off 106, 110* off 104, 107* off 101, 106 off 99) the two not outs being in chases. Morgan kept demonstrating he was the man for a chase to win us games.
Despite the fact that he had lean periods with injuries and didn’t master quite test cricket, Morgan rightly remained a mainstay of our ODI team. All too often in sport, things change but don’t actually change. Captains had changed in the years prior to Morgan taking over the reins but England had years of batting in the same way, years of bowlers thinking about economy rates rather than taking wickets and years of picking players with a red ball focus. Morgan identified the batsmen needed to be able to score quicker, to play more shots under pressure not less, he backed the bowlers when they were expensive as long as they sought wickets. In the first series after he took over, Roy, Bairstow, Rashid and Plunkett were all selected, players whose peaks were years in the future rather than solely focussed on winning games right now. White ball cricket had finally become a priority alongside red ball. Morgan’s changing room chat was about method, not results. Perhaps a risky strategy, particularly as it’s easy to say that’s what we will do but it’s very rare when you are under the intense scrutiny that an international captain is under to follow through. In the time since he took over, we have seen he has an excellent tactical understanding of the game. However, this is not a particularly unique quality as lots of professionals have a form of tactical astuteness. What sets Morgan apart and is most impressive is his clear, holistic approach which he has taken to getting England to where we are now. In a recent interview Morgan said he speaks to Nathan Leamon extensively to try and get any edge, he’s an experienced international captain, he could easily just make his decisions based on instinct, but he is willing to look to other people and ideas to gain every little advantage. That humility is easy to follow. He recognised the importance of T20 franchises before others. He demanded selection of players at the right times and he has been influential in players being dropped to preserve the best interests of the team, where others may have compromised their talk about culture and team values.
Whilst this revolution happened, Morgan remained inventive and powerful with the bat, finishing innings with a calm and yet destructive style. He has given England the freedom to play in a way that reflects his personality and sticks with them even when it hasn’t gone to plan. Morgan is the highest-scoring white ball English batter, he is, without doubt, our best ODI captain, but for his role in building a World Cup winning team from nowhere, he may well be one of the best leaders that English sport has seen. Winning is not easy in international sport, but Eoin Morgan has won a T20 World Cup and a 50 Over World Cup and took us to the final of another T20 World Cup. Leadership characters are vital in sport and are particularly interesting to me. Morgan’s leadership has been undeniably elite. Even if he didn’t score a run, I would want to study how he has moulded this successful white-ball squad and what he says to them behind closed doors. But he does score runs, 9640 international white-ball runs to be precise, and he’s done it with style.