Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Missing Morgan Mixes Up the Middle Order

The news that Eoin Morgan has picked up a shoulder injury that will see him miss the rest of an India ODI series that already seems to have fizzled out into a damp squib may not seem important, but it couldn't have come at a worse time for England. With a resting Kevin Pietersen missing, and now Eoin Morgan, England have absolutely no idea of their strongest ODI batting line up, and will have to wait a further few months to organise themselves properly so they can discover it.

The idea of resting players is not a new one, and it is by no means a ridiculous one. Last summer, Kevin Pietersen looked jaded and forlorn - a shadow of himself having struggled through a test series against Pakistan. So, like it or not, KP sat out the ODI series, and has since made a couple of double tons and rediscovered the form that made him one of the world's best batsmen. And it's also clear that Alastair Cook, who wasn't at the time involved in England's limited over plans clearly benefited from the time out of international cricket at the end of last summer, seen in the winter to end all winters for Cook. International cricketers can't be expected to play 24/7, 365 days a year or they'll burn out - the current plague of injuries surrounding the Indian team is testament to that.

However, Pietersen missing last year's ODI series confused the selectors in the ODI format, leading to a very haphazard build up to the World Cup ultimately ending in Pietersen being shoehorned in to open, and nobody really knowing what England's best team was. Following the ultimate disappointment that the World Cup proved to be, England had the chance to reestablish themselves as an ODI side, with a new captain, and a blank canvas on which to create the best team possible. However, the middle order is still cause for concern.

Do the selectors want to use the tried and trusted batsmen from the tests with Trott batting at three, Pietersen at four, and Bell and Morgan at five and six? But is that line-up lacking in 'explosive' players? Do they want to bring in young Ben Stokes for his all-round abilities (even though he can't bowl at the moment, which was a decision not particularly thought through...), which means that someone has to make way? Or do they want to pack the side with one-day specialists like Bopara or Patel? The absence of Pietersen automatically means it isn't England's strongest side, meaning somebody is only temping for KP, and now with Morgan missing it means that more short-term fixes are going to be made towards a long-term problem.

England's lead-up to the World Cup was very poor, and while selectors have spoken about learning from their mistakes and moving on, it's plain to see that they still have no idea who they want in or how they want them to play. With Pietersen and Morgan, England's two ODI trump cards going to be out for the rest of the series, the search for a consistent and settled team will go on. It's just as well that against the world champions, England have their ever faithful match-saving joker. The September English weather.

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