Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - What Morgan says goes. Morgan works closely with Nathan Leamon (right), England's analyst, but comes to his own viewpoint and won't then be swayed.
Morgan works closely with Nathan Leamon (right), England's analyst, but comes to his own viewpoint and won't then be swayed.
Liam Plunkett's first three overs in the 2019 World Cup final at Lord's cost 19 runs. He hadn't bowled badly but, by his own admission, nor had he quite hit his straps. Eoin Morgan recognised that his middle overs enforcer wasn't bowling as well as he might and took him off, throwing the ball to Adil Rashid instead. The England captain returned to Plunkett soon enough, though, this time from the Nursery End. And as the fast-bowler stood at the end of his mark, Morgan had some words for him.
“He came up to me and said ‘Do what you do, mate. You're one of the best in the world in this middle period',” Plunkett remembers. “He just backs you and knows the right things to say at the right time. And after that, I felt comfortable.” Plunkett took 3 for 21 from his remaining seven overs which included the wicket of New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson. It was a performance that was crucial to England's eventual victory. Morgan's little pep talk had had the desired effect.
Morgan will lead England into another knock-out match against New Zealand tomorrow, this time in the semi-finals of the T20 WC. It is the third successive semi-final that England have reached under his captaincy, an unprecedented run of consistency for a country who have generally been worse than woeful in global ICC limited-overs tournaments, the 2010 T20 WC win excepted.
Given the turnaround in fortunes he has engineered, Morgan has little more to prove as a leader. He will already be remembered as one of England's best-ever captains but failing to win this tournament would certainly be a disappointment. A victory, in contrast, would secure his legacy.
Cricbuzz has spoken to a number of people who have worked and played with Morgan to find out how he captains England and what kind of leader he is.
There is little doubt that Morgan is in charge of England's limited-overs ship. The players call him ‘boss' and he acts like it. While the coaches support and facilitate training sessions, Morgan sets the whole tone of the operation and takes all of the key decisions. That is not to say he is dictatorial in how he operates. He communicates widely – on the field, he relies on Jos Buttler and Chris Jordan while off it he works closely with Nathan Leamon, the team's analyst – but comes to his own viewpoint and won't then be swayed. What Morgan says goes.
The players know that. He is clear on what he expects from them, both in the way they play the game but also in their behaviours and character. Alex Hales crossed Morgan twice and has not been seen in an England shirt since despite playing some brilliant T20 cricket. The captain is a pragmatist too. Nobody is indispensable, as David Willey knows all too well, having been dropped on the eve of the 2019 World Cup to make way for the recently qualified Jofra Archer.
While there is no doubt who is in charge, Morgan does not rant or rave to assert his authority. Instead, nearly everyone spoken to for this article mentioned the same thing about him – he is consistent and steady. “On the field, the thing I noticed was just how calm he was,” Olly Stone, who Morgan gave an ODI debut to in Sri Lanka in 2018, tells Cricbuzz. “Whether you got hit for six, four, got a wicket, he was very level-headed. He took every ball the same.”
Matt Parkinson first experienced Morgan's captaincy on a limited-overs tour to New Zealand at the end of 2019. “His calmness rubs off on a young player,” the leg-spinner tells Cricbuzz. “That's why you see when young lads go in like we did on that tour, me, Saqib Mahmood, Tom Banton, we all did OK. That came from how comfortable we felt with Morgs and how calm he was with us.”
Morgan had his fiery moments as a younger man but has said previously he has deliberately shied away from that side of his personality as a captain. He says he does not want to be a reckless decision-maker. When the ball was flying to all parts in England's last match against South Africa, Morgan's face betrayed nothing of what he was thinking. Plunkett says he never saw Morgan have a go at a player who under-performed.
Nor does he overreact to a defeat. “He is really very calm about it,” Dinesh Karthik, who played under Morgan's captaincy at KKR, says. “He assesses it very objectively. Does he give a deep briefing in the changing room? Not straight away. He can understand performances, he can understand failure much better than most people.”
Regardless of the result, the messages are generally always the same with Morgan, both privately and publicly. He is usually very positive in how he speaks and talks of the opportunities to learn that a defeat or poor performance brings. He will often only criticise his team if he thinks they haven't played with enough aggression.
The constant reinforcement of how he wants the team to play and what he expects builds trust. If a player tries the positive option and it fails, they know Morgan won't be on their back. He is happy for players to make mistakes if they are the right mistakes. He also won't change his expectations day to day as some other captains do either.
“When we lost to Mumbai Indians [at the start of the IPL in April] and we didn't really play well, he was very calm about it,” Karthik says. “He said our batting wasn't up to the mark in terms of intent but that's OK, next time we play we should be more fearless. After the CSK game [in the second half of the IPL], it was very close, we lost on the last ball, basically [KKR lost by 2 wickets]. He said the way we played was brilliant and we are going to qualify if we play the same brand of cricket.
“I like that confidence about him. He walks the walk, talks the talk. Irrespective of whether he scores runs or not, he is the same. He is very calm, very commanding, he is the head of the army and he behaves like that. His batting form never dictates how he is as a captain which is a remarkable quality.”
While Morgan has been going through a lean patch of late, he still sets the tone with his own batting. “I think he is an absolute gun,” Parkinson says. “I bowled to him in The Hundred this year and he swept the absolute s**t out of me. He didn't get on top but he never looked like missing a ball and it was a tough pitch. He has been class for years. I have been very lucky not to have bowled at him that much!”
Morgan is meticulous in his preparation for each game and series, working closely with Leamon, the England and KKR analyst. In a World Cup, they will typically start discussing the make-up of the team two to three days before each game, including batting order and bowling responsibilities. It is a discussion largely based around the threats and opportunities that the opposition offer at a particular ground.
Leamon will then share detailed information with Morgan, the coaches and senior players the day before the game. That will include detail on opposition players including how the batters may go against certain types of bowlers and where they score their runs in certain circumstances. On match-day, Leamon will take Morgan through the results of the algorithms he uses that predict the impact of batting and bowling combinations.
“I like that confidence about him. He walks the walk, talks the talk”
Contrary to popular opinion, the approach Morgan takes on to the field is fluid. There is no pre-set bowling order or match-ups. He responds to the conditions, the team the opposition have picked and how the innings pans out. Leamon runs the computer models latest during the game so that England's thinking reflects the situation in front of them. The information from the models is passed to Morgan – Leamon places coded cards at the boundary edge for Morgan to see when he is in the field – so he can factor it into his decision-making.
There is a lot of information for Morgan to digest. Those in the team environment say one of his strengths is an ability to assimilate lots of different types of detail. He watches lots of footage and studies the various data England have on their opponents. Morgan also likes to capture the personal experiences of his players such as if they have had previous success against a particular batter or bowler. Morgan takes all that information and uses it in his planning.
It is not just the cricketing part of the job that Morgan studies for. He is an avid reader and last year read a book on leadership by Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney. Morgan also listens to podcasts, including David Novak's How Leaders Lead series, and is a big note taker too, writing things down that he thinks he may be able to use with the squad. Those who work with him say he is constantly pushing to improve the team and the environment and will draw on as many resources as he can to do that.
That curiosity helps with decision making too, providing different perspectives. When topics are discussed, Morgan never makes it about who is right or wrong. It is all about what the right decision is for the team in his view. He shows little ego in the decision-making process. The signalling system that Morgan and Leamon use proves that. Not many captains would be comfortable in allowing such a method to impact on their on-field process. Morgan on the other hand has encouraged it because he can see the advantages it offers.
That 2018 tour of Sri Lanka was the first time Stone had ever met Morgan. “He pulled me aside after the first training session,” Stone says. “He said he knew I would be nervous but not to shy away from what I had done to get there. He just made you feel like you had already played your first game and were part of the squad rather than a newcomer coming in. You can go and express yourself then.”
The sort of inclusivity is not just for the players. “He is very family orientated,” Plunkett says of Morgan. “Families are always invited, the changing room door is always open for them after the games. That's what was so good about the culture, it felt like a real tight community. He put across that we were all going through this journey together, the wives, the players, families. You got to know each other's background, each other's family.”
Many of England's World Cup squad have their families with them in the UAE. It has enabled the players to get away from cricket, something Morgan tries to help with too. “He has an interesting theory where he says anything cricket [related], he does between after he gets off the bus and before he gets on the bus to leave for the hotel,” Karthik says. “Everything happens on the ground.”
It is there that Morgan will explain his decisions to the players about tactics or selection. As with any captain, he has players that he rates more highly than others. He is particularly loyal to those he trusts. Tom Curran, for example, has been a constant presence in squads despite a middling record over the past 18 months. But whatever the situation, Morgan generally lets people know where they stand. “He would never shy away from it, spoke to you face-to-face,” Plunkett, who played 75 matches under Morgan, says. “He would tell you straight – this is how it is.”
Morgan has said that he wants to continue in the captaincy until the end of next year's T20 WC in Australia but for now, his undivided focus is on this tournament. He will prepare thoroughly for the semifinal against New Zealand. He will be clear in how he wants his team to play and he will give them the confidence to do just that. Whatever happens on the field, you can be sure Morgan will appear calm and collected. If they win, he will treat it just the same as if they lose.
Those are the traits that have characterised Eoin Morgan's nearly seven years at the helm. He has been a fine England captain. Victory against New Zealand, and then in the T20 WC final, would seal his legacy as one of their finest ever.