Morgan aims to stand tall
Eoin Morgan habitually lowers his sights at the crease, but his lofty ambition for England is undiminished by a tough tour of duty in the desert this winter.
The left-handed batsman, possessor of the most pronounced crouch in world cricket as part of his trigger movement when batting, acknowledges it is a quirk he needs to keep an eye on.
Morgan’s involuntary squat is so exaggerated that he is within inches of actually sitting down in front of the stumps a split-second before the bowler delivers the ball.
But he makes no connection between his unusual habit and a run of low scores in England’s 3-0 Test defeat, which he believes had more to do with his injury-enforced five-month absence from competitive cricket - and some outstanding Pakistan spin bowling on awkward surfaces.
Morgan has since begun the one-day international series with another failure but then contributed two unbeaten 20s to a winning cause, which has put England within one more victory tomorrow of a 4-0 series whitewash. That would be a payback of sorts for the world number ones’ unexpected Test defeat.
Morgan, meanwhile, could do with the opportunity to play a more significant innings - crouching or otherwise. He does not deny his contortions, but does not see them as a source of significant concern either.
“It’s something I’m definitely aware of and trying to counter,” he said. “It was the most extreme during last summer, but it’s something I’m working on and sticking with and trying to manipulate so that my balance stays the same.”
Morgan is satisfied that at the moment the ball leaves the bowler’s hand, his eyes are level.
“At the point of release it [my head] is very still,” he added. “You look back at it when I’ve done well, and it’s still the same. It’s come from my power-hitting, my Twenty20 and one-day cricket. It’s escalated from that - clearing the ropes.
“You have to counter it with what you think is right and what works. If it continues not to work then I’ll have to change it.”
He does not anticipate that eventuality, though.
“It started about a year ago and progressed that much in a year that you always have to monitor it and realise it’s there, but be aware of what you’re doing,” he continued. “But it doesn’t really bother me - as long as I’m getting runs, it doesn’t matter how I get them.”
Morgan’s Test average has dropped to a shade over 30, from 16 matches, after just 82 runs in six attempts here.
“It’s been hard work,” he said. “The first part, the Test series, was very tricky. Certainly the skills levels on our behalf - and mine as well - weren’t up to scratch. We struggled.”
England’s worst tormentor was off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, whose variations have proved especially hard to decipher.
“He’s been in a fantastic run of form of late - and again having not played in four or five months caught up with us, me in particular,” added Morgan. “I’ve been off for quite a while.
“Even though I spent some time in India before Christmas, it doesn’t replicate what you’re up against. But I’ve played a lot of sub-continent cricket and I should be used to it. I wasn’t, and my skill levels weren’t up to scratch.”
England can nonetheless finish the tour on a high, by making it 4-0 tomorrow and then taking the three-match Twenty20 series as well.
They are number ones and world champions in the latter, and Morgan has his eye on the same sort of progress in the 50-over format.
“Where we are is six in the world; where we want to be is number one in the world by the World Cup in 2015,” he said. “We want to be in a position where we have a strong enough side to go out there and say ’we want to win this World Cup’.”
In the more immediate future, England must decide whether to stick with a winning team to try to ensure they inflict that whitewash - or consider resting busy bowlers such as Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad, or even take a look at the middle-order potential of Jos Buttler.
“There’s certainly a chance to do that,” said Morgan. “We do want to win 4-0, and if the opportunity arises we could give players a bit of experience. But the priority is to win the game.”
Pakistan have been badly-affected by illness in the camp.
Younus Khan was first to start coughing and sneezing. While he appears to be over the worst, others are suffering instead - and opener Imran Farhat may be unavailable too, because of a groin strain.
Interim coach Mohsin Khan is more concerned, though, about another collective ailment - the issue of homesickness for a team whose country is in such turmoil that they must play home matches hundreds of miles overseas.
“Nothing can take homesickness away,” he said. “You can live in a palace. But if you live in a small two-bedroomed house, your home is always your home.”