Heroes of Associate Cricket: Eoin Morgan
Oscar Wilde was never a huge cricket enthusiast, but one of his most famous epithets might apply to his compatriot Eoin Morgan.
I’m paraphrasing, of course, but to win one global trophy might be regarded as good fortune; to win two looks like anything but carelessness.
Morgan is the only surviving member of the England T20 side which triumphed on the world stage six years ago and there have been appropriately-titled Barmy Army members questioning his inclusion in the side as events have unfolded in India since the middle of March.
And yet, on the eve of the eagerly-awaited final between England and West Indies, it’s undeniable that the little Irish fellow with an idiosyncratic style to batting and an equally unorthodox attitude to captaincy has gone where no Associate cricketer has ever gone before.
Morgan has travelled a long road since I first saw him in the flesh in Dublin in 2005. At that stage, the Irish cognoscenti told me he would make waves in the sport and regaled me with tales of how his expertise in Gaelic football had been astonishing. He had, or so I was informed, the talent, technique and temperament to become a genuine superstar.
The next day, as the Scots pummelled their Celtic hosts into the dust, Morgan lasted just five balls before being trapped leg before by Paul Hoffmann for only four. As far as many of us were concerned, the jury was still out on his potential.
And yet, these wise old Irish characters were right all along. Granted, Morgan never really stamped his authority on the Test circuit with England as he would have wished, but he has risen to the challenge of ODI cricket with an unquenchable thirst for success.
Occasionally, when he has batted at his best, he has produced mesmeric routines and extravagant shots which testify to his remarkable hand-eye coordination. In other instances, he has struggled by entering the fray too far down the order and become embroiled in impossible chases.
But there are three things to bear in mind with Morgan. For starters, he is as temperamentally fragile as a moose and he backs his instincts in any situation. On Sunday, whatever the scenario, he will ask Chris Gayle to tackle spin from the very first over and the outcome of that battle might be pivotal in the outcome.
Secondly, he’s a nice lad, but he’s nobody’s fool. I spoke to him after he had graduated into the England Test squad and he was both polite and pragmatic. “I’m only at the start of the journey and I have to move on from here,” he told me, employing the media-speak which has become part and parcel of the modern game.
But suddenly, he went off message. “I wouldn’t be here today without all the help the Irish set-up gave me. Am I representing Ireland when I play for England? No, of course not. But am I proud to be Irish? Absolutely!”
This was an evocative and heartfelt reminder that Morgan has never deserted his roots or forgotten where he first caught the cricket bug. And this brings me to the third point: he is a fierce, ferociously-driven character: the sort of indefatigable warrior who might come out on Sunday and crash 60 off 22 balls.
To some extent, he may always be regarded as an outsider by a few in the Home Counties, but that is not how he is perceived by the T20 squad whom has transformed in the last year. And the latter are right.
Morgan, at his best, is capable of wreaking a terrible beauty. And we might witness that in the final.