England skipper needs big game against NZ but remains confident despite pressure

On an employment scrutiny scale from the Invisible Man to President of the United States, the job of England cricket captain aligns more closely with the latter.

Wherever England play, the demands for accountability from arguably the sport's most erudite and omnipresent media corps is relentless. It includes numerous former players and captains who are impossible to dupe, and they critique for a voracious group of fans.

Like the political landscape, it is democracy in action. The England team's position is justified through performance; implicit to that is how the captain fares. If the skipper says, to quote US President Barack Obama, "yes we can" and doesn't deliver, he often wears the blame.

Eoin Morgan is the latest to endure the pressure of his forebears.


The 28-year-old fronted yesterday at the Basin Reserve as his side prepares for tomorrow's World Cup pool match with New Zealand.

England suffered a 111-run defeat to Australia in their opening match after three consecutive losses to them in the preceding tri-series. Morgan's form has also been subject to the microscope - a recent hyperbolic posting on cricinfo.com suggested it had become a mythical creature, perhaps like the Loch Ness Monster.

His last four innings of 0, 0, 2, 0 have a greater resemblance to the international dialling code for Egypt than that of one of the world's best premier limited overs batsmen who this week earned a new Indian Premier League contract with the Sunrisers Hyderabad for $320,000.

Morgan remained upbeat yesterday after replacing Alastair Cook as England ODI captain in December.

"There's always that level of expectation to win games of cricket," he said. "I've had a few low scores ... but I'm continuing to keep things simple. I believe it will enable me to cash in with a match-winning performance or helping someone else to do the same."

Morgan said he hadn't changed his mindset since making 121 in his first match as the official ODI captain against Australia in Sydney last month.

However, in 22 ODI innings over the past year he has passed 50 one other time and managed 401 runs at 18.22 with a strike rate of 73. He has passed five three times in his last 12 ODI innings.

Morgan has taken responsibility for his slump, saying himself and other senior players like James Anderson, Ian Bell and Stuart Broad must offer more consistency.


"We didn't do that at the MCG. Our contributions are important to make the younger guys feel comfortable.

"There is a sense of frustration, but these big games are great practice for the latter stages of the tournament. Wins against good opposition breed confidence."

Morgan's ODI record against New Zealand - in eight innings he averages 19.37 and a strike rate of 81 - suggests little is about to change. However, there is a caveat. In the third match of a dead rubber at Nottingham in 2013 he made 49 off 40 and engaged in a partnership of 62 off 22 balls during the final four overs with Jos Buttler, the new vice-captain. Back then they had Jonathan Trott and Alastair Cook to set a platform but, without that duo, there is more responsibility and often earlier entry against a newer ball.

Morgan must summon the courage to address this career hiccup. New Zealand need to be wary about Wellington being the venue for a renaissance.

3 things about Morgan


England captain Eoin Morgan's form is under scrutiny. After scoring a tri-series century against Australia in Sydney he's followed up with scores of 0, 2, 0, 0.

2. This week, Morgan earned a new Indian Premier League contract with the Sunrisers Hyderabad of about $320,000.

3. In 22 ODI innings over the past year Morgan has scored 401 runs at 18.22 with a strike rate of 73. However, he helped dismantle New Zealand at Nottingham in June 2013.

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