Captain says England’s World Cup hopes can take a big step forward in series in India with defining roles and game-plans top of the agenda; Morgan says India will start World Cup as favourites but this series offers England a great chance to learn about subcontinental conditions
Last Updated: 11/03/21 5:57am
Eoin Morgan says England’s player rotation policy in Tests is “a very small sacrifice” that enables him to lead his strongest T20 squad against India in a World Cup year.
England slumped to a 3-1 defeat in the five-day series during which Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali all spent time at home for scheduled rests due to the congested nature of this year’s international fixture schedule.
All three players return to the squad for the first of five T20s on Friday – games that Morgan says are crucial for England’s development and preparations ahead of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in India in October and November.
India vs England
March 12, 2021, 12:30pm
“Yes, it definitely is our strongest squad available and it’s great to have everybody here,” Morgan said in an interview with Sky Sports Cricket’s Michael Atherton.
“It’s very rare that we get to do it. Our last tour to South Africa was a little bit of a fluke in the way that the schedule worked – there was a break both before and after for guys who play all formats of the games.
“After this tour, I don’t see another opportunity given the schedule to get our strongest squad available together. So preparation and clarity of roles – gelling as a side and being comfortable with the game-plan that we are going into the World Cup with – is going to be extremely important.
“I suppose the changes that are made will be as a result of what we learn both on this tour and what we’ve gathered from our experience in 2016 when we got to the World Cup final.”
He added: “To be honest, from a captain’s point of view I very rarely get our strongest squad together so for him [Root] not to have his strongest squad for one series is a very small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things given bio-secure bubbles, the schedule and the pinnacle of winning an Ashes series away from home.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board has stressed the need to rotate multi-format players at a time when the fixture load is complicated by the complexities of ‘bubble’ life brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time, the ECB will allow the 13 English players contracted to play in this year’s Indian Premier League to participate in the entire tournament – even permitting their biggest stars to miss the first Test of the summer should their franchise still be in contention to win the IPL.
Morgan insists that opportunities for players to improve during the IPL outweigh the risk of burnout.
“For a start I don’t think the IPL is going anywhere – it’s the biggest, most successful tournament in the world,” he said.
“As a white-ball captain planning towards World Cups, certainly over the last five years, we’ve used it and benefitted from it hugely in the development of our players and the confidence that we’ve built in the changing room in guys like Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler going there and being MVP and bringing the knowledge that they’ve learnt into our changing room.
“The international schedule is what it is – it seems to cater for the majority of the time in and around the IPL. We see other boards around the world almost opening that window as well.”
England go into the white-ball series against India ranked number one in the ICC’s T20 and one-day international rankings, with Morgan’s men aiming later this year to add the T20 global title to the 50-over crown they won at Lord’s in 2019.
But in India the tourists face a side that has not lost a T20 series in seven and has been beaten just once in their last 11 matches, forcing Morgan to concede that with home advantage they are “without doubt” England’s main challengers for the T20 World Cup title.
“India are going to go into the World Cup as favourites – and I think it is justified,” said Morgan, who repeated his desire to lead England not only in this year’s T20 World Cup but the following edition in 2022 as well.
“They are a really strong team particularly at home – they have a lot of depth in their squad as well and have all bases covered. We’re on a different journey at the moment than we were going into the 2019 50-over World Cup.
“Although we are number one in the world, we are exposed a little bit away from home and I think that’s perfect in the way that we still have seven months to go until the World Cup and this very important learning series to play.
“A lot of the guys have good memories from the 2016 World Cup in India when we got into the final and experienced different conditions.
“Conditions at this ground will be as difficult as we will find ourselves in at the World Cup. It’s exciting in one way but also it’s going to be challenging.”
Watch England’s five-match T20I series in India live on Sky Sports. Our build-up to the first game starts at 12.30pm on Friday on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event.