Eoin Morgan, England’s white-ball captain, says he will need to take it “week by week” if he hopes to lead his side out for this winter’s T20 World Cup in Australia, but is prepared to own up to feeling “cooked” at any stage in this year’s busy itinerary.
Morgan, 36, has not played any competitive cricket since missing the final three matches of England’s T20I tour of the Caribbean in January with a quadriceps strain. He is due to play in Middlesex’s opening fixture of the Vitality Blast on Thursday, against Gloucestershire at Radlett, but will sit out the following day’s fixture against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl, having passed the team captaincy over to Stevie Eskinazi.
“There’s nothing specific [injury-wise],” Morgan told London’s Evening Standard. “I’m just old, I think! It takes longer to recover. I did play the two back-to-back games in Barbados, then I got injured. You shouldn’t get injured warming up as a batsman, but I pulled my quad warming up, which means my body just didn’t recover at all.”
This surfeit of caution means that England will be obliged to have “contingency plans”, as Morgan put it, when their international season gets underway. Assuming they are fit and available, Jos Buttler or Moeen Ali are the likely captaincy stand-ins for England’s three ODIs in the Netherlands next month, including two in three days on June 17 and 19.
From there, England take on India and South Africa in 12 matches across two formats in July, before Morgan’s second season of the Hundred with London Spirit gets underway in August. His winter schedule is scarcely less busy, with England now due to play seven T20Is in a fortnight in Pakistan before heading to Australia to prepare for the World Cup in mid-October.
“There are back-to-back games in the international fixtures, so just getting to them and seeing how I am, will be a decision made then,” Morgan added. “There is more solace looking towards the World Cup, because there aren’t fixtures within a few days. Everywhere else we play, they see time and just want to have games.”
England are set to embark on a new era across formats, following the appointment of Brendon McCullum and Matthew Mott as the new red- and white-ball head coaches, and despite expressing his excitement at working with the two new arrivals, Morgan is realistic enough to recognise that his own involvement could yet end abruptly.
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“Particularly with getting injured recently on the West Indies tour, I need to be as honest as I can with Keysy [England managing director Rob Key] and everyone else to make sure we are in the right position come Australia in October,” he said. “I have always said that if I am on the way to a ground and feel done or cooked, or lacking the drive for it as a leader, I will communicate ASAP to Rob.
“But I think it’s important that I play it week by week to start with, and aim for the T20 World Cup.”
With England’s initial focus on the revival of their Test fortunes, starting at Lord’s against New Zealand next week, Morgan said that he did not expect to see many of England’s multi-format players – most particularly Ben Stokes but Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root too – until the Pakistan tour gets underway in October.
This means that England’s tour party for the Netherlands in particular could have an experimental feel – and potentially a controversial selection too, with Nottinghamshire’s Joe Clarke among those likely to feature in the selection debate, three years after his involvement in a sexist WhatsApp group that ultimately led to the rape conviction of his former Worcestershire team-mate Alex Hepburn.
Key recently opened the door to a Clarke call-up by remarking that “you can’t penalise people forever”, and in an interview with The Telegraph this week, Clarke – who was sanctioned by the ECB but was not charged or accused of any crime – admitted his enduring sense of “embarrassment and shame” at his actions.
“This is not about playing for England. This is about owning what I did, that I made a mistake and what I did was wrong,” Clarke said. “If there is a message in there for the victim, and if she were to read this, she will see that I know I let her down. Hopefully she will read that and she would not feel anything towards me in a bad way.”