Eoin Morgan has been the driving force behind England’s stunning white-ball revival – but Nasser Hussain says there are still some doubts over the talismanic skipper’s tournament form.
Under Morgan, England have gone from ODI also-rans to the world’s top side, sweeping aside all before them to assume the mantle as favourites for this summer’s World Cup on home soil.
That scintillating form, coupled with the destructive manner with which they have achieved it, has brought plaudits from far and wide to the England skipper’s door.
Yet England failed four years ago with Morgan at the helm – exiting the 2015 edition in the group stages.
Morgan’s own form has also come in for scrutiny. His is a feast-or-famine approach that saw him impress in the 2017 Champions Trophy and again this winter but struggle for large parts in between.
And Hussain insists now is the time for Morgan to put the debate to bed.
“He’s an odd player. He’ll go through phases where he doesn’t score runs and he had his peaks and troughs,” said former England captain Hussain, speaking at the ICC Cricket World Cup Trophy Tour event in Birmingham.
“But his recent form has been excellent, which is important. Captaincy works better when you are scoring runs.
“One thing he would like to put to bed is that his tournament play hasn’t been that good.
“He was given a hospital pass last time around, getting handed the captaincy just before the tournament, and they didn’t change the selection too much, playing an old brand of cricket.
“That’s the one thing he would like to put to right. In a tournament, he would like to deliver.”
Ranked the world’s No.1 ODI side heading into the May 30 curtain-raiser and boasting a formidable batting line-up featuring the likes of Jos Buttler, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, hopes are high that this current vintage can become the first England side to get their hands on the coveted trophy.
And Hussain, who captained England between 1999 and 2003, feels that level of success would be just rewards for Morgan’s enduring faith in his style in the face of initial adversity.
“They’re right at the top and they deserve to be. They’ve played some magnificent cricket since the last World Cup,” Hussain added.
“He’s (Morgan) been so cool, so calm, and we’d doubted him. There was a game at the Ageas Bowl where I was doing the presentation after England had been bowled out in under 50 overs.
“We had a couple of old fogey commentators saying how ridiculous it was, that the first rule of 50-over cricket was to bat your overs.
“I put that to Eoin and he was not having it at all. He never seems to doubt himself and when the captain isn’t doubting himself, that filters down through the team – and the team don’t look like they’ve doubted the new style and brand of cricket. It’s almost become second nature to them.
“They’ve selected well – the right type of player – and they’ve been ahead of the curve.
“They have placed themselves in exactly the right position heading into the competition. They couldn’t be better placed. Now, it’s just about performing.
“They were average in ODIs for a number of years but people now look at us and think that’s the right way to do it. I think Eoin should take a lot of credit for that.”
Meanwhile, Jofra Archer’s omission from England’s initial 15-man World Cup squad may have raised eyebrows – but Hussain believes the decision could yet pay dividends.
Despite thrilling for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL this season, limited overs star Archer was a notable absentee when the World Cup favourites named their provisional squad on Wednesday.
Instead, the electric Barbados-born paceman – recently qualified for his adopted nation – has one final chance to prove his worth as part of an elongated group for May’s ODI and T20 series against Ireland and Pakistan.
Ousting prominent members of the squad that has helped England become the No.1 ODI side in the world over the past few years, will, however, be far from easy.
And after several players including seam rivals Chris Woakes and David Willey hinted that Archer’s late arrival could unsettle the group Hussain believes the selectors have made the right decision when it comes to preserving team unity.
“They’ve gone the right way round leaving him in the 17,” added Hussain. “Pick the 15 that got you to No.1 in the world.
“If they’d gone the other way and they’d picked him, then you’ve already upset someone – (David) Willey, (Liam) Plunkett or (Tom) Curran, whoever else. And then, if it doesn’t work for him, you have to back-track and admit you got it wrong.
“Leave it so that if he has a phenomenal series against Pakistan, make a decision as to who you’re going to leave out. I think they’ve got it pretty much spot on.”
England and the other competing countries have until May 22 to finalise their squads for the tournament, which begins on May 30 with the hosts’ clash with South Africa at the Oval.
That gives Archer, 24, an enticing last-gasp opportunity to stake his claim against Ireland and Pakistan.
Time is running out for the Bridgetown-born paceman but Hussain reckons he has what it takes to force his way into the fold.
“I think he will have to excel to get into this side,” he added.
“To get into my team or other previous sides, you just had to turn up and put in an average performance.
“For this one, all 15 of these lads that have taken England to No.1 in the world deserve to be in the squad.
“To knock one of them out of the squad, you have to put in a performance that makes people realise what all the fuss is about.
“Archer has the ability to do that and he’s got a great chance in the series against Pakistan.”
PATRICK BOYLAND / Photo: Getty Images
ICC Cricket World Cup Trophy Tour, driven by Nissan, is on a 100-day tour of England and Wales and will be at over 100 locations and events before arriving back in London ready for the opening match on May 30.