Morgan tries to solve IPL dilemma in Ashes year by tugging at fringe status



When it comes to England's centrally contracted players, the Indian Premier League is the competition that dare not speak its name. Unless you're Eoin Morgan, that is.

"I would like to be involved because I have learnt a lot from the IPL," said the 26-year-old Middlesex batsman ahead of England's third one-day international against India, which gets under way in M S Dhoni's hometown of Ranchi this morning.

Morgan is contracted to the Kolkata Knight Riders and has yet to make a decision on his participation this season. "If I am on the fringes, obviously things will have to be thought about quite deeply and we will go from there," said Morgan.

A life on the fringes is no life at all, especially not with back-to-back Ashes on the horizon. "I want to be involved this summer, it is two Ashes series and it's what everyone dreams of."

This year, every England player's pronouncements come with an Ashes caveat. Morgan is not about to put a gun to the selectors' heads but his involvement in the IPL hinges on whether he makes the Test squad for the tour of New Zealand, due to be announced on Thursday. Conversely, his involvement in the Ashes could hinge on his decision about whether to play in the IPL.

"I was fully centrally contracted last year, so again things won't change," Morgan said. "It will be assessed on whether I am in the squad for New Zealand if I am going to play [for Middlesex] at the start of the season."

After Morgan was dropped from the Test side following the 3-0 defeat to Pakistan last year, he shunned rehabilitation with Middlesex in favour of a stint in the IPL. He has not played Test cricket since.

The Irishman was selected for the Test series against India but was overlooked, first in favour of Samit Patel, then Jonny Bairstow and finally debutant Joe Root, who was preferred for the crucial fourth Test.

Morgan's average of 18 from five county games in 2012 understandably failed to convince the selectors of his suitability for the longer form of the game.

One player with no such IPL dilemma is India and Chennai Super Kings' captain Dhoni. Ranchi held its breath today as he was rapped on the thumb by India's bowling coach Joe Dawes during a nets practice. A city exhaled when it was reported he was uninjured and would be fit to play.

Clarke has no excuse for Aussies' flop

Australia captain Michael Clarke endured a "horrible day" as Sri Lanka dismissed their hosts for a paltry 74 on the way to taking a 2-1 lead in their one-day series.

Nuwan Kulasekara took 5-22 after Australia elected to bat at The Gabba in Brisbane. Sri Lanka had a shaky start themselves, slumping to 37-4 after captain Mahela Jayawardene was dismissed for one by Clint McKay in the first over; but they rallied to pass the Australian total with 30 overs to spare. Earlier Angelo Mathews had David Warner caught in the second over of Australia's innings before Kulasekara removed Phil Hughes, David Hussey, George Bailey, Clarke and Moises Henriques in succession to leave the hosts reeling on 30-6.

"No excuse for the way we performed," Clarke said. "I understand the public wants us playing consistently; honestly, if we play like that then the public wouldn't want to see us playing at all."

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