The controversial boundary-count rule which decided the final of the 2019 cricket World Cup resulting in England’s victory over New Zealand, has been discarded according to International Cricket Council’s (ICC) recent rule change. From now on, in case of a tie in a final or semi-final, the super over will continue until one team has more runs than the other. Incidentally, before this news was out, we met up with ‘Captain Cool’ Eoin Morgan, who led England to its first cricket World Cup victory in July this year. The final was thrilling, but muddled with controversies owing to the now-discontinued boundary count rule. The blue-eyed Irishman, who was in Mumbai, spoke to BT about life after WC, its debatable result, longevity of Test cricket against the entertaining shorter formats, and more. Excerpts:
How does it feel to lead England to their first World Cup victory in the 44-year history of the tournament?
The support we received at home has been remarkable, and I think the WC joy and goodwill continued over in the Ashes (iconic Test cricket series played between England and Australia) as well. Although it was a (2-2) draw, it was incredibly entertaining. The entertainment value was brilliant, not only for cricket but for sports fans across.
England defeated New Zealand in a thrilling and unpredictable WC final. It ended in a tie and a tied super over, but England was declared the winner as your team scored more boundaries. Did that (guideline for victory) act as a downer in any way?
It wasn’t a downer. In the immediate aftermath of the game, the whole game itself was hard to get your head around. There were so many instances throughout the game that probably added to the drama. New Zealand handed us the game, then we handed them the game, then they handed it back. The whole game was on a knife-edge. It must have been traumatic to watch. But now having watched it a number of times and remembering pretty vividly a lot of what happened in the game, there had to be a winner because that’s the way the ICC (International Cricket Council) made it.
Given a choice, would you have wanted another super over? In football, there’s extra time and then penalty shootout in case of a tie. There is another round of penalty kicks until they can determine a winner. Many expected another super over as that would perhaps be fair for both the sides (England and New Zealand)?
Extend the super over? (Smiles!) I don’t have an answer for it. I think if you go into extended time and the same thing happens again, it’s just never-ending. The ICC wanted a result, and that’s how they determined it.
After the World Cup, you had said that you were physically and mentally knackered and that you needed some time away to consider your future. You weren’t sure if you wanted to continue leading England to the ICC T20 World Cup next year or the next 50 over WC in 2023. What happened?
I was drained mentally and physically. The WC campaign was demanding, and it took everything out of me. From the two defeats against Sri Lanka and Australia to getting together as a group, utilising all our resources, changing our mindsets and going back to the strongest points of our game… we did that, and it wasn’t easy. Perhaps, we made it look easier than it was. The two games that we played against India and New Zealand in the last stage were tough. I am glad that not only did we win them, but also the fashion in which we played them. We took that spirit ahead and gave our best performance in the semi-final against Australia. It took a lot out of me and took a toll.
However, you have now confirmed that you will continue leading England to the T20 WC next year.
Yes, I will be leading England to the ICC T20 World Cup next year. I spoke to medical staff, and they have assured me that medically there won’t be an issue. Also, I feel better after doing the rehab work and conditioning since the WC. It was a matter of asking myself the question — Do I still have that hunger and determination? And I do. I am enjoying my cricket and coming into my best years. I am 33, so hopefully, I have time. A lot of people say that when you feel you are supposed to retire, that’s the time to go and I haven’t felt like that yet.
You are the ODI and T20 captain, while Joe Root is the captain of the England Test team. Not many are in favour of dual captaincy as there can be a difference of opinion. Indian cricket fans often wonder if Rohit Sharma should be given a chance to lead the team in shorter formats and Virat Kohli can continue as the Test captain.
The dual captaincy has worked really well for Joe and me. We work well together. Joe isn’t the captain just in white-ball cricket, but he’s still a leader within the group. Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jason Roy, Chris Woakes… all these guys are leaders. They all are important. Every great side has guys in the engine room who drive things forward and set the tone for a game underneath the captain and the coach. There’s an open line of communication, and even if there are any differences, it’s towards a common goal. It’s about realising that and not having egos get in the way. Joe and I are regular guys, who want the best for the team in every situation, and that’s how we have made it work. Also, we are a multi-cultural team. We come from various backgrounds, races and religions. People relate to our team’s environment and how we overcome things.
When you look at the Indian cricket team, do you think we should continue with what we have been doing and have Virat leading all formats?
They are a very strong outfit, and you can’t argue with the methods that they have gone with because they are an exceptional Test match and ODI team. The T20 WC next year will see how they perform there. The formula that India is using is working, so obviously, they are doing something right.
Like MS Dhoni, you too are known as Captain Cool. How do you manage to hold your nerve in pressure situations like the WC final for instance?
I am pragmatic, and I tend to think quite logically. I think that’s the best way for me to make decisions in the game. I don’t do things in the heat of the moment. In high-pressure situations, that rubs off on people and your team. If you scream and shout at a bowler, asking him to do something, he might freeze. He might take that energy and tension with him into his deliveries and skills. I try and stay in the moment and use the scoreboard as a reference the whole time.
Which cricketer did you idolise while growing up?
I idolised Brian Lara. Being a left-hander, I looked up to him. He was amazing to watch and so flamboyant. He never changed his game for any particular ball. He always tried to get on top of the game, even against the Australian side and in any form of bowling attack.
You will be playing a ten-over (T10) cricket tournament in Abu Dhabi next. Is this also your way of promoting cricket in nations where it isn’t as popular?
Any tournament’s crucial goal is to promote the game because it allows young players to pit themselves against some of the best in the world. Any domestic tournament helps produce great talent and an opportunity for players. This is the shortest format of the game (10 overs), so it will be incredibly entertaining. People who have no interest in cricket, and I know so many who don’t, can also enjoy these formats, so it expands the fan base. This is the format that could potentially grow the game in the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games, too.
We live in times of instant messaging and thanks to smartphones and social media, and our patience is at an all-time low. With the shorter versions of cricket matches gaining popularity, what do you think is the future of test cricket?
I think the future of Test cricket is bright. At home, for us, it’s still important, and that will be the case as long as our young cricketers prioritise the format. But things will change if the young kids stop liking Test cricket. At the moment, budding cricketers want to play Test cricket because it’s tough and that’s why it’s the ultimate test. Over the course of five days, your cricketing abilities are examined, and that’s the beauty of it.
You are Irish. You hold dual citizenship as your mom’s British, father’s Irish. Your wife is Australian. How has that shaped you as a person?
Quite rounded, I hope. It increases your understanding of different cultures and societies. Just having a different perspective on things is a really good thing because society these days tries to drive people apart, but having varied opinion brings people together.
Cricket is like a religion in India as opposed to the UK, where football is perhaps followed more. You have been a part of the IPL, do you enjoy playing here?
I love playing in India. Every time I come here, there’s always something different… a new challenge. Also, when you play against India, you play against one of the best sides in the world, so there’s an added reward and risk about your team’s performance.
You have visited Mumbai often, any fond of memories of the city?
I have spent a lot of time in Mumbai. I have been coming here since I was 16 and have also tried the local fast food here. I like to play golf at the gymkhana close by. I have stayed at the Wankhede when they used to have these rooms for training camps.