independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Cricket: Captain Morgan hungry to pass England test

With the bulk of England's triumphant Test squad now returned from India, the rump have been left behind to contest what on the surface appear to be two completely irrelevant Twenty20 matches.

These games were crowbarred into the schedule to appease the Board for Control of Cricket in India, which wanted England to stay in the country over Christmas instead of going home and then returning next month for the five-match one-day series.

But for the two captains in Pune today, they offer a chance to forget the past month or so. And that is something that MS Dhoni, the India captain, whose future has been the subject of frenzied speculation after overseeing his country's first home Test series defeat for eight years, already appears to have done.

Dhoni cut dead the very first question asked of him at yesterday's pre-match press conference as soon as the words "Test series" came from his inquisitor's lips.

"This is a completely different format, so I don't think there's any point talking about the Tests," he said. Forget the post-mortem, just hide the body.

For Eoin Morgan (right), his opposite number, these matches offer a chance to relieve two months of frustration after seeing his path back into the Test team blocked firstly by Samit Patel, then Jonny Bairstow and finally, in the last match of the series in Nagpur, the 21-year-old debutant Joe Root.

As deputy to the injured Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad, Morgan will now captain the side after eight weeks during which he was not even first choice to carry the drinks.

The Irishman, who led England's one-day side for a one-off match in his native Dublin 18 months ago, hopes that these two matches will be the first step on the road back to Test cricket ahead of next summer's Ashes.

"Certainly, given the opportunity, I'll back myself to get back in the team, absolutely," he said. "I'm only going to do that through weight of runs. So everything starts from tomorrow. It's my first opportunity in two or three months.

"I was looking for a chance, and the chance didn't come. I'm not going to sit and sulk about it; I'll do things that are going to put me in the right direction and hope they move me up the pecking order."

Tim Bresnan and Patel, two players whose immediate Test futures are under pressure, also have a lot to play for. "It's a big opportunity for guys like myself and Bressie and Samit to go out and perform again," Morgan said.

"It's going to be mayhem here and in Mumbai in the next game and performing under pressure is what the selectors want to see. If we can do that it can nudge us up the list."

With Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann rested and Steve Finn and Broad injured, England will field a young side who will be underdogs against an Indian team desperate for redemption following their chastening Test defeat.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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