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- World Twenty20: Ominous for England but Eoin Morgan holds key
England’s stand-in captain Eoin Morgan will use today’s Twenty20 international against India at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium to launch his way back into Test contention. With back-to-back Ashes series in 2013, “everything starts” here for the 26-year-old.
Morgan, replacing the injured Stuart Broad as captain for this two-match series, could only watch as Alastair Cook rewrote Test history. Three times the selectors denied Morgan a place: he lost out to, first Samit Patel, then Jonny Bairstow, and finally Joe Root. Morgan knows there is only one way to ensure those selectors hear him crow.
“I’m only going to do that through weight of runs,” said the Middlesex batsman. “I was looking for a chance, and the chance didn’t come. I’m not going to sit and sulk; I’ll do things that are going to put me in the right direction and hope they move me up the pecking order.”
Carrying on where Cook left off by inflicting more pain on his opposite number MS Dhoni would be a move in the right direction for Morgan. For an exemplar of strong captaincy and perseverance, the Irishman only need look to the statue that adorns this magnificent 55,000-seat arena, of Pune-born D B Dheodhar.
The “Grand Old Man” of Indian cricket captained Maharashtra with distinction, and is one of the few players, alongside Kent’s Bill Ashdown, to have played first-class cricket before the First World War and after the Second World War. He was never once dismissed in the nineties during his 35-year career and died in 1993, aged 101.
For now, Morgan has turned closer to home for inspiration. “When the Test side has done well it’s had a knock-on effect,” he said. “We’ll be looking to take confidence and momentum and keep up the winning habit.”
Having five members of the history-making Test squad in his ranks will help. Stuart Meaker, who looked England’s fastest bowler at the start of the tour, will be unleashed alongside Jade Dernbach, with Tim Bresnan adding necessary experience to the seam attack.
Of the others to remain, Patel, one of the few to emerge from England’s lacklustre World T20 showing with any credit, can expect to feature prominently with bat and ball. Following an impressive Test debut, Root was a late addition to the T20 squad. After good showings for Yorkshire in the recent Champions League, he is not just looking for experience.
Although if England opt for another frontline spinner alongside James Tredwell, Root will lose out to Hampshire’s promising left-armer Danny Briggs. The last of the five, Bairstow, will bat first drop. After keeping wicket in England’s last T20 international, here he faces stiff competition for the gloves from Somerset’s Jos Buttler.
One position not in doubt is Luke Wright’s at the top of the order. The big-hitting opener has been making an impression in T20 across continents over the past 18 months, including during a stint for Pune Warriors. He arrives to open with Alex Hales fresh from a successful spell with Melbourne Stars, which included clubbing Muttiah Muralitharan for six in one match-winning half-century.
Morgan will want more of the same from Wright against an attack that will include Test spinners R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Yuvraj Singh – back playing the game he plays best. However, with Dhoni suggesting that the pitch will favour seam, expect Pune pace bowler Ashok Dinda and debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar to lead the line.
Kumar’s claim to fame is that he is responsible for Sachin Tendulkar’s only duck in first-class domestic cricket. Morgan will be hoping that, come tomorrow, he doesn’t have any more reasons to be famous.
India (probable) M S Dhoni (capt; wkt), G Gambhir, A Rahane, V Kohli, R Sharma, S Raina, Y Singh, R Jadeja, R Ashwin, A Dinda, B Kumar.
England (probable) E J G Morgan (capt), A D Hales, L J Wright, S R Patel, J M Bairstow (wkt), J C Buttler, J E Root, T T Bresnan, J C Tredwell, S C Meaker, J W Dernbach.
Umpires: C Shamsuddin and S Asnani.
TV: Sky Sports 1, 1-5.30pm.