Morgan ready for biggest Test
Eoin Morgan is determined to prove to himself and the world he belongs in Test cricket.
Morgan, called up to the 12 for the first npower Test against Bangladesh, on his home ground at Lord’s, has made his name as a limited-overs batsman.
His range of shots and notable power, for a man with an apparently light frame, has made him a lynchpin for England in 50-over and Twenty20 cricket.
But the left-hander’s returns in first-class cricket - especially last year, when he averaged under 25 for Middlesex - have been nowhere near his one-day statistics.
Even so, England’s selectors have backed their instincts - identifying an international talent they believe can be transferred to five-day cricket, and therefore fast-tracking the 23-year-old Irishman into their Test plans.
Morgan himself admits he was taken aback when he was told he had been picked, in the absence of Paul Collingwood - who has a shoulder injury and is being rested from the series along with Stuart Broad.
“It did surprise me, slightly, to get the phone call the other day,” he said. “But I was over the moon too, because to get a phone call like that is every kid’s dream.
“Test cricket is where I want to be, to test myself against the best.”
Morgan, one of a clutch of England cricketers to earn an Indian Premier League contract this year, has been pigeon-holed by some as a player whose ambition - if not his talents - may be trained on limited-overs possibilities.
He insists, however, that nothing could be further from the truth.
“Test cricket is my biggest aspiration, and my biggest dream,” he said. “It has been since I was a kid. I grew up watching England play Test cricket and wanted to be like some of my heroes. That is where I want to be.”
The young Morgan, in fact, was deprived of watching one-day internationals in his native Dublin. He did see plenty of England in Test action - although he does not recall an especially successful era.
“One-day cricket wasn’t televised in Ireland, but there was a lot of Test cricket. I used to watch the West Indies come over and play and bomb the English. It was entertaining, to say the least ...
“Growing up watching it was fantastic.”
As long as England field a full complement of batsmen on Thursday, Morgan’s own Test chance beckons - and he believes he can adapt his limited-overs expertise.
An impish confidence will be one of his main assets, and Morgan was cheeky enough today to set his sights - in jest - on Brian Lara’s all-time world record score.
Asked whether he has the patience for a six-hour innings, he said: “I think so, certainly. I think I might get about 400 (by then) ... that wouldn’t be a bad start. It’s not necessarily batting in a different way.
“I think it will be a lot more spanned-out. But if the game does dictate a certain shot and the percentages are in my favour, I’ll play it.”
Morgan acknowledges he needs to make sure he avoids some previous failings but he will not be frightened to roll out his most audacious one-day shots, if the situation is appropriate.
“I think last year I was a bit ill-disciplined in my game, and my head wasn’t in the right place.
“We had a lot of consecutive games, and I couldn’t seem to get a score. But a lot’s changed since then. I’ve a lot of runs under my belt now and feel quite confident about my game.
“I wouldn’t say I get bored (in the longer formats). Where my failure has been is ill-discipline - and I think I’ve corrected that to a certain extent.
“I’ve played the reverse-sweep millions of times. I’ve got out to it 10% of the time, but 90% of the time it’s scored me runs.
“It will be a case of assessing how valuable the shot is going to be to me. I might not play it for a year, but if it’s going to score me a lot of runs maybe I will.”
Morgan, like several other members of the Test squad, is fresh from yesterday’s Downing Street reception for the ICC World Twenty20 winners.
He learned there that Prime Minister David Cameron is better briefed about cricket than he had bargained for.
The PM appears to have a particular knowledge of venues for next winter’s Ashes. But Morgan suspects there may be an extra reason for Cameron’s homework on that score.
“It’s not every day you get an opportunity to meet the Prime Minister,” he said. “He knew a lot more of the Australian grounds than I did. He came over and chatted about Australia, and I was like ‘I haven’t actually been there, so I don’t know what you’re talking about’.
“I think he was more excited about it than I was. He was just buzzing off the fact he might get a free trip!”