Captain Morgan determined to seize ‘huge opportunity’ for England
Morgan’s men face New Zealand in Sunday’s World Cup final at Lord’s.
England captain Eoin Morgan is hungry to cap four years of toil and determination by delivering the World Cup win the country craves.
When Morgan leads his team out in Sunday’s Lord’s final against New Zealand, their first since 1992, he will follow in the footsteps of Mike Brearley, Mike Gatting and Graham Gooch, all of whom finished with runners-up medals.
The current generation have set their sights on becoming world champions for the first time, finishing a job they started all the way back in 2015, when they ripped up the blueprint that led to an abject campaign and plotted a new course.
Morgan has been at the forefront the whole way and knows the size of the chance in front of an England side who will get the opportunity to play in front of a mass free-to-air audience for the first time in 14 years.
If the personal stakes are huge then the wider implications for the sport are potentially even larger.
“It means a huge amount to me and everybody in the changing room. It’s a culmination of four years of hard work, dedication and a lot of planning,” said Morgan on the eve of a career-defining day at the office.
“It presents a huge opportunity to go on and try and win a World Cup. It’s on terrestrial television around the country and obviously various outlets online and that presents a huge opportunity for us to sell this great game.
It means a huge amount to me and everybody in the changing room. It's a culmination of four years of hard work, dedication and a lot of planning. Eoin Morgan on the World Cup final
“I think for everybody around the country, the support we’ve had throughout has been unquestionable and as a team that makes you feel extremely lucky. The general level of excitement, the messages you get through, the people you meet on the street… it’s pretty cool.”
Morgan has not visualised the winning moment, which would elevate him to sit alongside the likes of Bobby Moore and Martin Johnson in the national canon of sporting skippers, but more out of superstition than pessimism about his prospects.
“I haven’t allowed myself to think about lifting the trophy. Cricket and sport in particular is very fickle,” he said.
“If you ever get ahead it always seems to bite you in the backside. But for us to win it, I think around the country it would be awesome, great for the game.
“We’re going to enjoy the game regardless. We’re going to try and take in as much as we can, it’s a World Cup final, and we’re not going to shy away from that.”
England are picking from a fully fit squad, Jonny Bairstow having been passed fit after slipping mid-run in the semi-final thrashing of Australia, and will be highly tempted to stick with the side who have won the last three games in style.
That means four will miss out, two of whom – Tom Curran and Liam Dawson – have not seen action in the entire tournament.
The £3.2million winners’ pot will be weighted towards those who have featured most often, but Morgan’s gratitude is shared equally.
“I think the two guys that haven’t played a part have been brilliant for us,” he said.
“We always talk about the squad. We never talk about the final XI. The final XI is extremely difficult to get into, so having that responsibility of going out and doing what you do is more important.
“What it means to friends and family is unbelievable too. We had a lot of friends and family in the changing room after the semi-final because they are as important to our success as we are.”
Morgan was speaking shortly after bumping into Brendon McCullum, a close friend, former team-mate and, coincidentally, the man whose leadership of New Zealand four years ago inspired England’s shift in approach.
“We just caught up outside. We are close mates and he’s taught me a lot about leadership,” Morgan added.
“I think in 2015 the way that New Zealand played, very similar to the way they are playing at the moment, they proved to everybody that you can perform at the highest level and get to the top by being yourselves and not trying to be somebody else.”
If both sides stay true to their distinct identities and deliver on the big stage, it promises to be quite an occasion.