Barely a few hours before the two captains went out to toss for the ICC World Cup final on Sunday, I was suddenly reminded of a so-called ‘connection’ between the current England captain Eoin Morgan, coach Trevor Bayliss with the IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders. The two were very much part of the KKR’s turnaround in the 2012 edition of the league when they won the cash-rich league for the first time.
Morgan was then a very much a soft-spoken journeyman England cricketer — albeit of Irish descent — who was trying to carve a niche in white ball cricket for England while Australian Bayliss was hired by the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise more for his CV as a Twenty20 coach as they looked for a turnaround in fortunes. While ‘Morgs,’ as he was popular in the KKR dressing room, did his bit with some uninhibited hitting in the lower order, he was no means considered as one of the architects of KKR’s title-win that year.
Three years down the line, Morgan and Bayliss - the two 'outsiders' joined hands to form an unlikely winning combination for England in the wake of the Three Lions’ stumbling at the quarter-finals to Bangladesh in the 2015 ICC World Cup. Armed with a carte blanche from Andrew Strauss, appointed the CEO of England Cricket Board (ECB), the pair changed the way England approached their limited overs cricket — a journey which took them to the final of a 50-over World Cup at home in the most emphatic style possible.
Now 32, Morgan has been an anathema to what a England cricket captain ought to be. Much before the ECB had made the doors open for their cricketers to the franchise leagues all over the world, a pragmatic Morgan decided to prioritise on the white ball game, even though he played 16 Tests for England at a modest average of 30.43. He has played in as many as four IPL teams (KKR, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kings XI Punjab & Sunrisers Hyderabad), two teams in Pakistan Super League (Karachi Kings & Peshawar Zalmi) apart from the likes of Barbados Tridents, Sydney Thunder. If that was not enough, Morgan was also not loathe to the T10 league in the UAE — a concept often ridiculed by the purists — where he captained Kerala Kings to a title-triumph in the inaugural edition.
The cumulative experience of Morgan and Bayliss, of course, helped England team shape a new world view — allowing the likes of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes to express themselves over the last three years. The team continued to overhaul 350-plus targets with regularity while they came so close to winning their second World T20 crown in 2016 until Carlos Brathwaite wrecked their dreams with four last-over sixes in the final in Kolkata.
English cricket will have to be indebted to this captain and an outsider — irrespective of their fortunes in the final — for making them dare to dream again!