Starting Out

It's always nice to be able to say that you saw someone play when they were just starting out, and to be able to claim that you knew that they had 'what it takes' before most people even knew who they were.

I can't quite claim that with Eoin Morgan, but I did see him make an impressive unbeaten fifty in his third game for Middlesex, in the C and G Trophy against Somerset at Bath in June 2006. Morgan then was the same as Morgan now; small, wiry, bottom-handed and astonishingly powerful, with two lofted sixes sailing out of the Rec and showing (along with his mature management of the tail) that here was a nineteen year-old who was likely to go places. I can't remember if I declared that 'that boy will play for England' (mainly because I knew he was Irish), but I hope I did.

Now, of course, he's his adopted country's latest star, with the normally deadpan Bob Willis excitably comparing him to an amalgam of Graham Thorpe and Neil Fairbother. Well, yesterday's hundred against a combative Bangladesh side was exceptional - especially the finish - and England would have been sunk without it, but I'm not sure about the comparisons. Although a gritty left-handed nurdler of supreme mental strength (who I really admired), Thorpe never made an ODI hundred and couldn't hit the ball with as much power as Morgan, and, while the comparison with Fairbrother is nearer the mark, Morgan will hope to do better at Test level (should he get there) than the Lancashire man ever did.

People shouldn't get carried away; until he scores more heavily and consistently in first-class cricket for Middlesex it's hard to avoid having doubts about his suitability for the Test side, but things can change. After all, the basic class is unquestionably there.

Yesterday's was one of the best one-day innings for England in living memory. We want - and will surely see - more.


Edmund said...

I'm afraid that watching Eoin Morgan save England from a looming defeat made me a little sad. Here is someone who has already scored a one-day hundred for his native country. Having spent a year playing cricket for County Galway, and having watched the rise of Irish cricket since then, I feel wistful about the opportunity missed here.
Just imagine how players like Morgan, that other trans-national Ed Joyce and all the many excellent players in their one-day side might have taken Irish cricket forward into the Test arena and helped develop the game across the emerald isle. To say nothing of the weakness of the ICC in allowing players to switch allegiance at international level in a way that FIFA would never truck, there is something cynical in how Joyce was lured into the England fold and then tossed away; and, as your doubts about Morgan's capacity at test level are echoed by others (and, with so many South African exiles around, how could he ever force his way into the top six, unless perhaps he is seen as Colly's eventual replacement?), it is easy to forecast the same fate for him as Joyce.
What a waste that would be: for the sake of a few ODI and T20 knocks, to forego the chance of immortality in bringing Ireland into the big time.

Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks, Ed. I agree with much of what you say, although I can't see how Ed Joyce was 'lured' into the England system. Obviously he was going to earn more and gain wider recognition as an England player than he ever would as an Ireland one, and those would have been major factors in his decision, but I've never seen any evidence that anyone tried to influence him to opt for England. I completely agree about his being 'tossed away' though; he did reasonably well during his time in the side (notably the Sydney ODI century, of course) and certainly better than others who were given more opportunities. It's particularly disapointing that no notice at all seemed to be taken of his excellent form for Sussex last season.

While I think, as I said, that people shouldn't get carried away with forecasting a successful Test career for Morgan on the basis of a few one-day knocks, everything we've seen so far tends to indicate that he's a better player than Joyce, so it'll be a major surprise if he doesn't stay in the ODI/T20 side for far longer.

I agree that the ICC should have been more interventionist for years with regard to nationality issues, but the genie escaped from the bottle ages ago and it's clear they're not really all that interested. You can't really blame the likes of Morgan and Joyce for taking advantage of that. I doubt if they felt that there was any chance of Ireland achieveing Test status anytime soon, and they'd be right

Dean @ Cricket Betting Blog said...

Good point about ICC, Edmund, I agree, and as Brian rightly points out, ICC don't seem interested in stopping players switching allegiance.

I know it's slightly off the subject, but it is a counterproductive attitude for ICC to take.

If, as they would have us believe, they wish to spread the gospel of cricket around the world, then surely it is in their interests to try and encourage cricket in Ireland.

What incentive do you give to Cricket Ireland to try and develop the game in Ireland, if England are just going to hand pick all their best players.

From the players point of view I suppose it is great, as they can come to England and earn a lot more money.

I think I read somewhere recently that ICC don't envisage Ireland having Test status for at least another 10 years, what message is that sending out?

It is a problem with no easy (looking) solution, but surely if ICC's aim is to develop cricket in Ireland, they have to stop the likes of Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan switching, or in other circumstances an Irish cricketer opting for England as a first choice.

I have also heard the names of Niall O'Brian and Boyd Rankin linked to England as well.

On the issue of Ed Joyce I seem to remember he was talked off as a possible England player (after qualification) in the build up to the Ashes tour of 2006/7, maybe that was the head turner for Joyce.

After all if you grew up watching Test cricket on TV in Ireland, would your ambition or aim to be to play in an Ashes series for England? I think it would be for most, which is unfortunate for Irish cricket.

Morgan would probably be of the same opinion as well.

With reagard to his innings the other day, it was a remarkable one for the temperament shown, which was far better than many more experienced players in the team.

We all know he has the shots, but he played the situation properly as well, which is something that can't normally be said of England (or Engalnd qualified) players.

I'm sure if he takes that temperament into Test cricket he would have a good chance of achieving at that level.

Russ said...

Dean, this is no easy issue. The trouble with preventing players from switching is that young players with test ambitions might refuse to play for Ireland, on the basis that it will thwart their test careers. That is a worse situation than having them jump ship and have to re-qualify backwards.

If I had a preference, it would be getting rid of test/associate status at a playing level.* Have a few major tournaments, with qualification and so forth. Just like other sports do.

The second best solution is allowing multiple affiliations, thus, if a player has played for an associate, then they can go back to that associate without the four year qualifying period, if the test side doesn't want them.

* At a voting rights/administration level it matters a lot, and that is one of the biggest impediments to Ireland become a test team. The ICC will probably have to do what the US states did, and vote in teams in pairs, one in the Asian bloc (Afghanistan/UAE) and one in the European bloc (Ireland/?), to maintain voting parity.

Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks, Dean and Russ.

Re Test status, Ireland with Joyce, Morgan, Rankin, the O'Brien brothers and Porterfield could probably just about compete, but they don't have the type of infrastructure which the ICC likes to see (although I'm not sure Bangladesh did either when they gained Test status). There's no domestic first-class cricket, or even matches of more than one day's duration as far as I'm aware. The same goes for Afghanistan, of course, just to an even greater extent as they wouldn't be able to play at home at all. Obviously Pakistan can't either, but they've been playing Tests since the fifties and do have a dometic first-class structure.

I can't see any new Test sides emerging in the foreseeable future; the only possibility is that Zimbabwe may come back in, but they still have a long way to go.

I can, however, see plenty of further ODI exposure for both these and others, and, like many people, I'm really looking forward to seeing Afghanistan for the first time at the World T20.

Russ's suggestion of 'multiple affiliations' looks great to me - I can't see a lot wrong with someone going straight back to an associate after playing for a full member country, something Ed Joyce would doubtless want to do if he feels that he's not going to get another chance with England (and it looks unlikely that he will now).

Dean @ Cricket Betting Blog said...

Russ, good point, I agree with your idea that a player should be able to go back to his associate country without the four year qualifying period, as Brian suggested, I think Ed Joyce would probably jump at the chance now, with not much likelihood of another England call up it also serves no purpose to Ireland (their development as a team) not having him available.

With regard to a player opting not to play for Ireland at all in an attempt to qualify for England, I totally agree. Thats what I meant where I wrote that an Irish cricketer may opt for England as his first choice, it wouldn't be good.

It would appear that there is no perfect solution to this, just trying to find the best out of a bad bunch of options.

I just question whether ICC are doing their best to resolve it?

I remember a piece on Sky Sports last summer that looked at cricket in Ireland and how it was developing, they interviewed two Irish brothers who played in a local cricket league, one said he wanted to play for Ireland, and the other said he wanted to play for England.

That just goes to show the extent of the problem.

Russ said...

Brian, as someone noted at Cricket Europe, the main reason associate teams don't have first class competitions is because only a full member can decide what is/isn't a first class game.

Even so, Ireland will probably never have a decent first class system. What I would add to that though, is that they will never need to for the same reason they don't have a remotely competitive football league. Every decent European player has a legal right to play county cricket, and will do so. That may be a good reason not to grant European associates full member status, but it shouldn't prevent them playing test matches.

Brian Carpenter said...

True, Ireland won't ever need a first-class system in practical terms, but the ICC would probably decide that they do if they ever get serious about trying to play Test cricket.

Given the rate at which they're improving I'd give Afghanistan a better chance of being admitted to Test cricket in the relatively near future (10-15 years) than Ireland. But I'm not holding my breath for either of them.

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