Cricket, a sport where 11 players combine to bring the desired outcome, often has match-winners or game-changers. There are some generational players who end up creating a bigger impact on the sport because of the way they play. In Eoin Morgan, England found a leader who not just changed his team’s dwindling fortunes but also revolutionised the entire ODI format for the cricketing world. In doing so, he instilled self-belief in the entire English cricketing system that now produces not just talented but also fearless cricketers.
Considering his recent form and Jos Buttler’s rise as a cricketer and a leader within the group, Morgan’s retirement might not come as a surprise. But here, we look into the career of one of world cricket’s most impactful leaders.
England were a mediocre ODI team heading into the 2015 World Cup. Eoin Morgan was handed over the captaincy from Sir Alastair Cook in December 2014, just two months before the World Cup in February. In a way, it was a result of a situation that is quite similar right now, as even Cook endured a horrible run of form which led to the change in captaincy. England were knocked out by Bangladesh in the World Cup, but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Post the 2015 World Cup, England made a few personnel changes and adopted a bold strategy of playing attacking cricket irrespective of the match situation. It was a high-risk brand of cricket, but it freed up the minds of their cricketers. Fear of failure turned into sending chills to the opposition bowling line-ups. This approach reflects in their T20I game as well, as they reached the Final and Semi-Final of the 2016 and 2021 T20 World Cup, respectively.
During Morgan’s time as England’s captain, the team broke several records, including beating the highest team total twice. All of this was possible due to England prioritizing players who could contribute in multiple fields. It provided them with depth in both batting and bowling. Having enough resources at hand allowed Morgan to implement his idea of attacking cricket.
A ballistic middle-order batter
Morgan was one of the most prolific middle-order batters in the world in the last 12-13 years. Since his England debut, 180 of his 207 ODI innings came at #4 and #5. In T20Is, he batted in these positions in 95 of his 107 innings.
Since his England debut, Morgan scored 1315 runs at #4 and 984 runs at #5 in T20Is – more than any player in these positions. In ODIs, Morgan scored the second-most runs at #4 and #5 combined, with 6,404 runs to his name. His ODI strike rate of 94.13 was the third-best for anyone with more than 2000 runs at those positions combined. Even in T20Is, he had the third-best strike (136.6) for anyone with at least 1000 runs at #4 and #5.
A tame end?
Eoin Morgan’s decision to relinquish captaincy and announce his retirement came after a huge downfall in his returns. Morgan endured a horrific run of form in all formats – ODI, T20I and IPL – since the start of 2021. A lot of question marks were raised against his form and as a result of it, also against his place in England’s strong teams across white-ball formats.
Morgan started taking breaks in between series, with Buttler taking charge of the team. With England managing to win in Morgan’s absence, and his replacements performing well, his need in the team was further questioned.
Great leaders understand the right moment to step aside and allow others to take the reins. With the 2022 T20 World Cup and the 2023 ODI World Cup fast approaching, it is only fair that a new captain gets enough time to create his desired team environment. Morgan has been on the other end of this situation and understands the need for it.
In Jos Buttler, England have an able man to lead their white-ball teams. He would inherit a cricket team that is ruthless in its mindset and approach. Eoin Morgan should get massive credit for that. His legacy? – Converting a talented team with mediocre returns into the best and record-breaking limited-overs team with fearless individuals.