London: England’s Irish-origin middle order batsman Eoin Morgan has credited South Africa’s Jacques Kallis and India’s Rahul Dravid for his marked improvement as a player at the international level.
Morgan, a batsman of prodigious talent and conviction, spent the first part of this season playing Twenty20 cricket for Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League instead of four-day cricket for Middlesex in the County Championship.
The contract was worth 350,000 dollars, but it left him with barely any time to stake a claim for a place in the Test series against Sri Lanka.
Morgan had one first-class match and probably only one innings to dissuade the selectors from opting for Essex batsman Ravi Bopara. The selectors had met, they had made up their minds. If the T`s were uncrossed, the I`s were dotted. It was that close. Morgan went out at Derby for England Lions against the Sri Lankans and scored a seamless, charming 193, Bopara a fitful, worried19. The deal was unstuck. Morgan had the place.
"I learned a hell of a lot," he said as he prepares to face India in the Test series starting on Thursday that will decide if England can overtake their opponents at No 1 in the world Test rankings.
"The conditions out there are unlike anywhere in the world, very testing, and each wicket is different. At our home ground, the bowling was opened with two spinners most of the time and that in itself was a massive learning curve. It wasn`t a huge standard, nowhere near international standard, which is totally understandable, but playing with Jacques Kallis this year and Rahul Dravid last year, legends of the game, I found out so much," he adds.
Morgan says the secret to Kallis`s game is that he never becomes excited, is never disconcerted by the moment.
"It`s not just his cricket, he`s laid-back about everything. He has been there, he has done everything, he has had the highs, he has had the lows. So, picking his brain was wonderful. He is so chilled out. Watching him in the changing room, he could be anywhere; he could be on his couch at home. Batting with him with a massive crowd all chanting is just like sitting with him in a living room changing a channel. I didn`t know you could play to your strengths that much," a daily quoted Morgan, as saying.
Morgan has already gone some way towards securing his place in the Test side, at least for the rest of this summer. His pair of seventies in the Test series against Sri Lanka were marvelously crafted, tailored clinically to the needs of the occasion.
Five Irishmen have played Test cricket for England. Morgan was the first for more than a century. Two have captained: Sir Tim Carew O`Brien, in one match in South Africa in 1896; and Fred Fane, five times between 1907-10.
Morgan may yet follow them into the role. He is already vice-captain of the Twenty20 side, was interviewed via Skype for the job of one-day captain when he was still in India and has not been afraid to respond assertively when asked about captaincy.
"It is absolutely a long-term target of mine. If you asked anybody, would they like to captain England in a Test match, one-day international or Twenty20, they would jump at the chance," Morgan says.
He added: "I am a leader within the batting unit. A good leader leads from the front and the way in which I play can have a positive effect on the side. It is something that I can develop over time."