Eoin Morgan: Fans are entitled to their own say on Steve Smith and David Warner
India captain Virat Kohli asked his supporters to go easy on the Australia duo.
England captain Eoin Morgan will make no attempt to ease Steve Smith and David Warner’s road to redemption, admitting the idea of appealing to fans for leniency “didn’t sit right”.
Tuesday’s World Cup clash at Lord’s marks a milestone moment in the Australian pair’s international return following year-long bans for ball-tampering.
The home of cricket may typically offer the most gentrified atmosphere on the circuit but it also plays host to the first competitive fixture between England and Australia since Warner and Smith re-emerged from exile and will offer an instructive guide ahead of this summer’s Ashes series.
Audible boos greeted both men during a pre-tournament warm-up game between the rival nations in Southampton, but India skipper Virat Kohli interjected on the issue during a group match in Taunton – signalling to his side’s followers to applaud rather than heckle the pair.
Any thought that Morgan might follow suit in a crunch game that could yet hold the key to England’s semi-final hopes was given short shrift by the Dubliner.
“I didn’t see it but when I heard about it I thought about it for quite a while,” he said of Kohli’s actions.
“I thought about ‘would it help in the right way?’ and ‘is it right?’ – but it didn’t sit right with me.
“I think fans and supporters up and down the country will have different reactions, as they will around the world. I think they are entitled to have their own view.
“Just because punishment was handed out and the two guys served their punishment, doesn’t mean they are going to be accepted back into the cricket community straightaway with open arms. It will take time.”
Australian commentator Jim Maxwell claimed during a recent broadcast that Morgan had privately said Warner should not have returned to the international stage, but the man himself had a different recollection.
“I didn’t say that, I said that it would be a long road back for them,” he explained.
Just because two guys have been punished, served their punishment and returned to play, it doesn't mean they will be accepted back into the cricket community straight away. Eoin Morgan
“If Australia had been number one in the world and winning every series during the time they were out it might have been a different story.”
Morgan’s opposite number Aaron Finch was similarly unmoved by the prospect of asking for an easy ride, suggesting any such pleas were likely to fall on deaf ears.
“I think whatever the public do, you’re not going to change it,” he said.
“Whether someone comes out and says do or don’t, I think it’s just going to happen regardless. It hasn’t affected our boys one bit, I can honestly say that if anything it’s given them a bit more motivation.
“I’m sure that’s the last thing from Steve or Davey’s mind when they are walking out to bat. If a handful of people or a whole stadium are booing them it doesn’t make any difference to how hard they watch the ball.”
The subject is likely to run and run for the remainder of the summer, but the match itself has plenty riding on it after England’s surprise defeat to Sri Lanka.
Having already lost their second group game to Pakistan, there is minimal room for manoeuvre if the hosts want to safely seal a semi-final spot.
To England’s frustration, explosive opener Jason Roy will not be fit to help. He returned to the nets on Monday for the first time since tearing his hamstring but is not yet ready for action.
He is an important enough player that England have not considered a replacement yet, with the available options perhaps considered too much of a downgrade.
Alex Hales has a more persuasive track record but Morgan said his position “hasn’t changed” since a ban for breaching recreational drug guidelines saw him axed from the squad.
James Vince will continue to deputise for now, looking to improve on his modest record to date – an average of 26.50 and a top score of 51 from 10 innings.
“Of course Jason is a big loss. He’s an outstanding performer and the way he plays epitomises the way we play as a group,” said Morgan.
“But I’m confident we have the batting covered. James Vince is an extremely talented, gifted player. We have every faith in him to go on and get a score at some stage.”