IPL 2021: Can Eoin Morgan Bring the ‘Luck of the Irish’ To KKR?
Can Eoin Morgan change KKR’s fortunes this IPL 2021?
“Do you think the luck of an Irishman got England over the line?” Eoin Morgan was asked just moments after he had guided his team to their first-ever World Cup title after what was an absurd final.
Though the Dublin-born cricketer refuted such claims, many in England will believe that their white-ball skipper brings with him an enviable luck factor and has transformed cricket in the country in a short span of time.
Reeling after a group stage exit in the 2015 World Cup, the team desperately needed a change in approach as they shifted focus to the tournament four years later, at home. Morgan, who had taken over the captaincy of the ODI team just weeks before the 2015 edition, was persisted with and was given greater power to mould the side according to his vision.
Under him, England registered their first-ever 400+ score in an ODI game, they scored 300 in a chase on four occasions, they scored 192 against the Kiwis in a rain-affected match in just 25 overs, they increased their batting depth that allowed the openers to play fearlessly and relied on elegant, calculated yet powerful timing.
Just ten ODIs after their World Cup exit, Morgan’s gamble of adopting a “perform or perish” tactic was termed a success, and the same template has seen them climb to the top, which has made cricket loved again in English circuits.
Morgan’s Experience in Dealing With Egos, Different Personalities
It, thus, came as a huge surprise when one of the best skippers in the world was not asked to lead the Kolkata Knight Riders after he was bought by the franchise last edition.
KKR had tasted tremendous success under the shrewd Gautam Gambhir, but the team seemed to lack zing and invincibility under Dinesh Karthik, who had been the captain ever since Gambhir moved to Delhi Daredevils in 2018.
Though Karthik has taken his state team Tamil Nadu to great heights, he was unable to leave his mark and eventually stepped down midway through the tournament last year, with Morgan taking over the reins of a team that had players from all over the globe.
It is a position that Morgan is not unfamiliar with.
“Do you think the luck of an Irishman got England over the line?” Though Morgan refuted the claims, he did go on to give a detailed answer about the immense diversity in the side that has helped him become a better man-manager:
“We had Allah with us. I spoke to Adil (Rashid), he said Allah was definitely with us. I said we had the rub of the green as well. It actually epitomises our team. It has quite diverse backgrounds and cultures.”
The England team has often been ridiculed, albeit in good humour, for fielding players of various ethnicities, races and countries. Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali are Asia-origin Muslims, the Curran brothers represented Zimbabwe in age-group cricket, Dawid Malan played for South Africa, Jason Roy is from the Rainbow Nation as well, Ben Stokes has his parents living in his original country New Zealand while Jofra Archer had played U-19 for West Indies.
Assembling, uniting and imbibing a team culture among such varied individuals with different backgrounds requires patience, something that Morgan is well versed with.
Making them world champions and ensuring the egos (something not unfamiliar with in England cricket) are set aside for a unified aim is an even tougher task, but it is something that the 34-year-old has done with relative ease.
The KKR side had been caught in murky territory after star all-rounder Andre Russell had slammed the repeated “bad decisions” by the team and called out the unhealthy team atmosphere in 2019 after the franchise lost six games in a row.
Images of Dinesh Karthik lashing out at Russell after the latter was taken for runs by Kings XI Punjab’s Nicholas Pooran further aggravated the claims.
Having Morgan lead the unit from the very start this year gives him ample time to adjust to the behavioral patterns of his teammates, something that he might not have had the time to do last year as he had been thrown in the deep end with seven high-pressure games in the latter half of the edition to lead.
Working With a Coach Who’s Been His Inspiration
Captain Morgan has been effusive in his praise for former Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss in his and England’s success in the last five years, and has time and again made it known that Strauss’ keenness to advocate fearless cricket helped him choose the direction that he wanted to take with his national team towards.
At KKR, Morgan will join hands with Brendon McCullum, an attacking wicket-keeping batsman who had reinvented the game with his aggressive approach.
Back in 2013, stand-in skipper Morgan had credited McCullum’s intuitive captaincy after New Zealand won the first T20I by five runs at The Oval.
Chasing 202, their highest-ever total for a win, the England team were well-placed at 134 for two after 14 overs, when McCullum had rolled the dice and kept a slip in for Morgan. The batsman obliged as he slashed one to Ross Taylor at slips, which helped in turning the game.
In 2019, ahead of the finals, Morgan had once again lavished praise on McCullum’s brand of leadership and mentioned that he had been inspired by the Kiwi, who had helped New Zealand into the finals of the 2015 World Cup.
The latter, in turn, had rallied behind Morgan’s inclusion in KKR and has often called him the “best middle-order batsman,” and it should not be a surprise if the franchise adopts an ultra-fearless mode of cricket-playing this IPL with two attacking cricketers (one former) in tow.
Though KKR managed to win just three of the seven games that Morgan captained last year, having him on-board for the entire season could be just the boost that the team needs.
The franchise has a number of talented players, but they have been prone to inconsistency and a cluttered mindset in the last few seasons. Roles remained undefined, the batting line-up was a muddle and the repeated failures at the top to go with Shubman Gill’s strike rate of 117.96 did not help matters.
The Englishman might not relieve KKR of all woes this year, but one is certain that he will bring a certain calm to the madness and a plan to the hara-kiri.
And maybe, just maybe, the ‘luck of the Irish’ as well.
(Sarah Waris is an English Literature graduate has who taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of sports to a few thousand words. A strong believer in the fact that Kohli and Paes are the greatest Indian superstars!)
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