What stands out about Eoin Morgan – what demands attention – is the sheer poise. He appears to have all the cricket strokes as yet devised by man and then some, but that is not the half of it.
He comes to the crease at neither a gallop nor a dawdle, he sizes up the situation as if he were a tailor deciding precisely how he might make a suit to tidy up the messy, corpulent frame before him and then he sets to work. It is the calm authority of it all, and it is something on which England have come to rely heavily in the past 18 months.
It is something that really could win them the World Cup for the first time. But first there's the Commonwealth Bank Series of seven one-day internationals against Australia, which have the capacity to make the World Cup, and six weeks on the subcontinent, seem like a breeze.
"There's never any panic," said Morgan before this morning's first 50-over match of the winter, the first of 16 if England are to reach the World Cup final on 2 April in Mumbai. "We're always building towards something. There's always a plan, which is usually to accelerate towards the end of the innings and get the percentage of dot balls down. It's a bit like opening the batting, where you leave, leave, leave, four. So again it's my role within the side."
He is as calm and measured in conversation as he is in building his innings, without the explosive bits on the end. The idea of any verbal pyrotechnics is an unlikely one. Morgan is content to let his bat do the talking. Since he broke into the side and made his first large impression in South Africa in 2009 he has batted at five and six for England. If it has mostly been at five, he scored the most recent of his three hundreds at six, in the deciding match against Pakistan at the Rose Bowl last September.
"I actually prefer batting at five," he said. "It's something I've done for a few years now. And I've sort of grown into the role of going in in different situations and I like the challenge of it. So I prefer to bat at five."
Nor is he fussed at all by the fact that England have had a habit of dropping him right in it. Frequently of late, Morgan has had to bail them out. But with his calm temperament he has barely noticed. "It's my role to go in where I need to absolutely get on with things or I need to rebuild," he said. "It's usually one or the other, so I'm quite happy." At Adelaide in the first Twenty20 match he came in at 63 for 3 and immediately lent cool authority to the cause. The only difference was he got out before the finishing line – and extremely annoyed he was too.
Morgan is 17th in the ICC batting lists, which shows what the rankings know. He scored three hundreds last year, all of them match-winners, all with England dicily placed. The manner in which he paces his innings is a joy to behold and when he unfurls his strokes he takes the breath away. Nobody has made the switch-hit look so natural, few hook so ferociously with such speed of thought and hands.
Yet this must have been a long winter for him. He was the reserve batsman throughout the Ashes, the form of the others – except Paul Collingwood – precluding his selection. Morgan was in the Test side last summer but despite a beautifully crafted century at Trent Bridge he never quite nailed the cunning, guile and method needed in the longer form, especially on capricious pitches.
Morgan insists he wants to be a Test batsman, although he could make an extremely handsome living and still be a star by playing Twenty20 cricket round the world, starting with the Indian Premier League, of which he will be part after the World Cup.
"I think I have capabilities beyond one-day cricket and I think I have shown glimpses of that in my short Test career so far, and hopefully the opportunities will come along," he said. "Absolutely I'm keen. Throughout the last few months I've been picking everybody's brains, especially when everybody has been playing so well. I have been trying to get bits and bobs that I can use in my own game. Test cricket is where I want to be."
But the IPL will give him little opportunity to play any first-class cricket before England play their next Test match in May. Morgan must be aware that he is taking a risk, although he pointed out that he would still be playing in a high standard of cricket.
"There will be plenty of opportunities for me to stake my claim in one-day cricket and remind people what I can do. I certainly hope that I might get a shot." He might, too, and it would be a little sporting tragedy if Morgan's Test career was devoured by short-form cricket. But the next three months promise to be a genuine treat.Reuse content