When you think of disrupters in cricket, you think of Kevin Pietersen, you think of Kari Paka, you think of maverick characters. They’re never far from controversy and always in the spotlight. You don’t necessarily think of Eoin Morgan. But make no mistake, he very much fits the description. In fact, were he not such a disrupter, his retirement would not have been received with as much coverage as it has been doing.
Having quit the international format after England’s 3-0 victory over the Netherlands last year, Morgan floated about various franchise tournaments for a few months before calling time on his career for good. He will be immortalised in English cricket and will most certainly go down as an English cricketing legend. That being said, generations to come may wonder what all the fuss is about.
Morgan’s statistics are more than respectable, but hardly what you’d consider worthy of legendary status. His test career lasted a mere two years, due in the main to a middling record.
As far as ODIs are concerned, he averaged 39 over 248 matches, amassing 7,700 runs, again, by no means hall of fame status. His T20I record is even less flattering, with 2,448 at an average of 28.
So why is he held in such high esteem? Even when Morgan first came on to the scene, there was an immediate feeling that this man wasn’t ordinary. The likes of Joss Buttler and Jonny Bairstow among numerous others have made unorthodox shot making the norm. Its easy to forget that Morgan was one of the pioneers of playing shots of an unconventional nature.
If your memory allows you to reminisce 14 years in the past, you associate the early Eoin Morgan days with eye-catching reverse sweeps, in those days a novelty in cricket. That shot is now greeted with a shrug, so normal a sight that it is. At the time however, commentators and fans alike were mesmerised by Morgan’s audacity to try something new.
In a sense, that convention is a microcosm of Morgan’s legacy. He has always been among the first to try something, and it has paved the way for the rest of the cricketing world to follow suit.
Take for example the IPL furore in Morgan’s early days as an England cricketer. At the time, Kevin Pietersen was the only English cricketer participating in cricket’s richest competition.
The ECB and Pietersen constantly had disagreements over the latter’s so called neglect of his national team. Morgan however was one of the first to propose the view that in fact, the IPL would benefit English players.
Low and behold, he was proven right and in the last IPL auction, as many as 26 Englishmen signed up, in no small part because of the path trodden by Morgan, himself a veteran of the competition.
Then there is the well documented 2015 ODI revolution. With English limited overs cricket on its knees, crying out for a leader, Morgan emerged from the rubble to revitalise the team. He oversaw one of the most dominant eras in recent times.
Morgan scrapped everything we knew about 50 over cricket. Averages didn’t matter. Wickets in hand didn’t matter. To a degree, winning didn’t even really matter, so long as you were committed to playing positive cricket (sound familiar? Cough cough Bazball cough cough).
Morgan’s philosophy was that he’d sooner have his team be bowled out for 150 attempting to get to 400 than get to 270 playing orthodox cricket. More often than not, England succeeded and when they didn’t, Morgan remained faithful to his style despite the negative noise from some quarters.
And yet, his frenetic 100 miles an hour style of play is at odds with his character. The cliche calmness personified gets overused, but in the case of Morgan, its most appropriate. No matter the game’s situation, Morgan gave nothing away in the way of body language to show how he was feeling. Players who have played under him without fail site his cool head as one of the main reasons for his success.
The 2019 World Cup was just reward for everything Morgan had given to England cricket. It would’ve been a travesty had the man widely regarded as the best captain England have ever had not had a World Cup to show for it. If anything, there’s maybe a tinge of regret that he doesn’t have a T20 World Cup to go with it. In all likelihood though, that regret is felt by fans far more than Morgan himself, someone so intent upon looking at the positives.
The T20 World Cup England did win, shortly after Morgan’s retirement from the international game, had its groundwork set by the man watching on from the Sky Studios on punditry duty. Morgan’s face, usually so difficult to read, was akin to that of a proud dad at his child’s football match. To a man, every player credited Morgan for their success, in spite of his absence.
So when, in decades to come, you’re asked what all the fuss is about, regale with tails of Morgan’s innovation, for he’s one of those unique cricketers who transcends statistics. Eoin Morgan was a disrupter.