Eoin Morgan's long, bizarre career is over

With his retirement from all forms of cricket, it is worth looking back on his time as a player.

Eoin Morgan's long, bizarre career is over

In the middle of his career, Eoin Morgan's batting technique had evolved in so many different directions that he was sitting on an imaginary toilet waiting for the ball to be delivered.

When you think of Morgan, the shit-batting squat probably doesn't come high up in your mind. That just shows what a long bizarre career he has had.

After all, Eoin Morgan is the Irish player who saved English cricket. And he did this despite failing at the Test level. Somehow England found a World Cup saviour in the underground cricket scene in Dublin.

But Morgan is not a random who came to cricket, but someone who played from a very early age. He comes from a long line of cricketers. He also went all the way through the pathway of Irish cricket.

His Gaelic sporting roots run very deep. Though it's been overestimated over the years when talking about his batting. But even he has grudgingly admitted his hurling background has certainly played a part in his reverse sweep. (Why don't we ever say that of people who play a double-handed backhand?).

And of course, early in his career, he played cricket for Ireland. Back when no one knew who they were until Trent Johnston hit the winning runs against Pakistan in 2007.

Although on the day that changed Irish cricket forever, Morgan received a brute of a ball and didn't trouble the Pakistanis too much.

For Ireland, he played until 2009, on the sorts of grounds that most international World Cup-winning captains aren't involved in during their early 20s. Trips to Kenya and playing as an amateur for the national team.

In 2010 he was back at a World Cup, but now for England. In the 2011 World Cup, he was in the England squad. But luckily for him, he didn't make the eleven when Ireland put in their second most important game in cricket.

Though perhaps the most interesting game for Morgan at this point was the 2011 ODI in Dublin at Malahide. Morgan not only played for England, but he was also the player of the match and captain as he defeated his friends and countrymen in an ODI.

You would think going home and dusting up your mates would be enough to show allegiance to England. But Morgan had a weird never-ending news cycle around the fact he wouldn't sing the national anthem. Which he said he also hadn't done for Ireland.

While he is an Irish cricketer, he also had links to England. As a youngster, he was brought to Dulwich College in London to play cricket. The school of Nigel Farage. This means that a single posh school helped win a cricket World Cup and destroy the country through Brexit.

But before Morgan's ascension in English cricket, he was a Test player first. And not a good one. Early in his first-class career, Morgan had shown some talent. But big scoring years were followed by tougher seasons.

He could make red ball runs, but not for long, or consistently. In 2012, he played a variety of first-class matches; England practice matches, Tests, county cricket and 'A' cricket. In all of that, he averaged under 15. That same year in ODI cricket he averaged 60. I mean, what the fuck can you even do with that?

That year was - unsurprisingly - his last in Tests. He continued to play first-class cricket till 2019, although he wasn’t particularly good at it.

With his Test career gone, he could focus on white ball cricket. But despite being one of England's better players, he was like a lot of guys in that era, stuck in a pretty weird team. A side that seemed to be playing ODI cricket from the 90s. And yet they still should have won the 2013 Champions Trophy, until Eoin Morgan interrupted a bunch of Ishant Sharma's worst balls to lose the game.

Then 2015 came about, and that really is the change for him. His tenure as the captain started really oddly when he was part of a blackmail attempt. And somehow got worse when England were terrible in that World Cup.

Then, inspired by Brendon McCullum, freed by Trevor Bayliss and educated by Nathan Leamon, Eoin Morgan turned English white-ball cricket around. Most of this was as a leader, but it is worth looking at what he and Joe Root did in the engine room to allow the team to flow. Essentially upping their scoring rate and not being dismissed in the middle. Mopping up any problems at the top, and allowing the guys down low to attack from a great position.

He is still the all-time leading run scorer for England in ODIs. And has a few for Ireland as well.

It really depended on what day you saw Morgan on how you felt about his batting. For long periods he could be scratchy and squatty - and you'd sit there wondering how he played international cricket at all.

And then other days he would do this.

This was a hundred of 50-odd balls where he took down Afghanistan, sure, ok. But also Rashid Khan. And he hit 17 sixes. He was 5 foot nine, and yet he could really hit when he needed to.

For a middle-order player, he seemed to be exceptionally likely to have peaks and valleys in his career. Periods where he looked as good as anyone in the world. And others where England or Kolkata had recruited a club cricketer from Malahide.

But as good as his batting could be, it was never really the story. His single-mindedness was always the thing you noticed. He could be so without emotion. Which is why Mel Farrell and I called him the ice king.

My favourite story of this is when I travelled to Kolkata a few years ago. And I was flicking through the local paper. An actress interviewed Morgan. It was a total fluff piece. The second question was as soft as you get, "do you like Kolkata". Morgan answered no.

He was like that in press conferences too. He could be as cutting and blunt with the press as any major captain. My favourite was when he went into Dawid Malan for not giving up his wicket to risk a single off the last ball of a T20. Malan had made 103 of 51.

But that style helped Eoin Morgan build the first team to hold dual white-ball World Cup crowns. They changed the game under him, and that doesn't happen without him having incredible clarity.

But I suppose his career is defined by three Ben Stokes moments. The first is his many conversations with Stokes in between Carlos Brathwaite remembering-the-name all over the place. At that point -  especially when England lost to Pakistan at the 2017 Champs trophy - we didn't know where England were headed.

But in 2019 we got a Ben Stokes carrying England and scored a six (of sorts) off the back of his bat. It meant that among the many things Eoin Morgan was, a World Cup-winning captain was one of them.

And then Stokes scored more runs in the final of the last World Cup. Meaning England had the dual crown after an injury slowed them down in the previous tournament.

And Eoin Morgan wasn't even at that one. He had already retired after going through another - and ultimately his last - batting slump. But such is his importance to English cricket, that even not playing, he was seen as the architect of a team on their way to trying to be the greatest white ball side of all time.

Eoin Morgan went from an Ireland player to an England legend. He went from a Test failure to an ODI great. And he went from squatting at the crease to sitting on top of the world.