Eoin Morgan knows how to transform a side into a competitive unit. He became captain of England two months before the Trans-Tasman World Cup five years ago. At a short notice, he couldn’t live up to the role and England had an early exit. But in four years, it was a different side under the Irishman. The fearless approach brought England its maiden 50-overs World Cup in 2019. A few months after the dramatic final against New Zealand at Lord’s, when Morgan popped up at the Indian Premier League auctions for the 2020 edition, Kolkata Knight Riders wasted no time to secure his services after an intense bidding war with Delhi Capitals. Eventually, the franchise paid ₹5.20 crore to bring him in as the deputy to Dinesh Karthik.
Karthik made his international debut in 2004, two years before Morgan. Their careers have been more or less similar with both the batters featuring in close to 300 T20 games. Even the strike-rates are close; Karthik at 132.58, and Morgan at 132.78. But ever since he joined KKR, there have been speculations that Morgan may take over the role from Karthik.
KKR’s loss to Delhi Capitals in Sharjah reignited the debate, but Karthik dismissed his critics by improvising against Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab to emerge victorious. Morgan is mighty impressed and happy to learn from the India wicketkeeper-batsman, who has been a contemporary of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
In an interview to Sportstar from Abu Dhabi, Morgan shares his vision for KKR and clarifies there is no discomfort between him and Karthik.
As the vice-captain of KKR, which are the areas you think that still needs work going into the remaining matches in the tournament?
I think we need to work on all three areas. In the first five games that we played, we displayed strengths in all three facets of the game. But I think when you are looking to be competitive to get through to the playoffs and possibly go further, you need to produce those moments when the team needs you. It involves a level of consistency in all three facets.
People expect you to come in at No. 4 but the KKR batting order has been flexible with Sunil Narine opening and then, also batting at No. 4 against the Super Kings. Will it make the unit a bit stronger if you bat up the order?
I think Sunil did a fantastic job at No. 4. The way he played, the level of intent reflected in the runs he scored and the balls he faced (17 off 9 balls). Upon reflection and with the benefit of hindsight, it was a really good decision. Given the flexibility in the batting lineup, we will continue to make moves like that because the match-up is right, and the coach, captain, senior players feel it’s the right move to give ourselves the best chance.
“All the preparation that I did playing against Ireland, Pakistan and Australia has lent itself to coming here and playing. The pitches where we have played so far are very similar to English conditions and as the tournament unfolds, we might see those wickets changing, game plans changing and skill level changing,” says Morgan. – Sportzpics / BCCI
When is KKR likely to field Tom Banton? He is an exciting prospect warming the bench…
I think his chances are strong. I have been in Tom’s position before when you don’t start the tournament given there is a limited amount of international opportunities within the side. It poses a different challenge for him to sit on the sidelines, practice as hard as he can and put himself in the best mindset, which gives him the best chance of coming in and taking the opportunity. Tom is an extremely talented player and unbelievably skilled. The guys are talking about Shubman Gill here but we also have Tom who has already played international cricket and tasted success. At some stage, he will get a chance.
What are your thoughts on Karthik’s captaincy?
It’s been brilliant to work with DK. I have learnt a lot so far working with him and I hope that continues. It is very early on in our campaign but we think along the same lines when it comes to strategy and game plan, which is great. We are still getting to know the best formula to win games and explore different areas. If I can offer things along the way, I will try and do that.
Varun Chakravarthy seems to be the new hot cake in KKR. Your thoughts on the youngster…
I am not sure about the hot cake but he is certainly a guy that gives extra strength to our bowling when you talk about mystery coming in. He has been calm and exceptional, he has executed well even in high-pressure moments of the game.
You have been in good form. How did you prepare for the IPL considering you were playing in different conditions back home?
I think you cannot replicate game-time, all the preparation that I did playing against Ireland, Pakistan and Australia has lent itself to coming here and playing. The pitches where we have played so far are very similar to English conditions and as the tournament unfolds, we might see those wickets changing, game plans changing and skill level changing. But there is only so much you can practice before you implement it in the game.