England’s captain Eoin Morgan believes cricket’s three formats are diverging at a rate that will soon make it impossible to have a single national coach across Tests, ODIs and Twenty20 matches.
The 50-over series beginning in Melbourne on Sunday begins a run up to the World Cup after which both England’s coach Trevor Bayliss and his Australian counterpart Darren Lehmann will depart their roles, with neither man willing to extend their contract any further.
England had previously employed different limited overs and Test match coaches when Andy Flower delegated the shorter forms to Ashley Giles before returning to a more conventional model, but Morgan believes that the days of one coach fitting all roles are running short.
“I think down the line there will be,” Morgan said when asked whether he saw a need for different coaches for each format. “Cricket is going to change even more in the next 10 years than it has in the previous 10 years. I’d say, if anything, the formats are getting further and further apart. So I’m open to it.”
The success or otherwise of Morgan’s team at next year’s World Cup will be the ultimate judgment upon the tack taken by the ECB in 2015, when they removed Peter Moores in favour of employing Bayliss with a clear mandate to improve England’s limited overs cricket. Through the naturally aggressive instincts of Morgan and also the wise counsel of the assistant coach Paul Farbrace, England had already been moving in that direction by the time Bayliss arrived, and the progress has continued since.
Sitting down at the MCG, where England had been thrashed by Australia in the opening match of the 2015 World Cup on the way to early elimination, Morgan said the struggles of that tournament had been a major catalyst for change, along with the knowledge that the next event would be held at home.
“It had quite a significant role, really,” Morgan said. “After that, a line was drawn in the sand and we were given clear directives that the goal was the 2019 World Cup. The gap between the England team in that World Cup and where we need to be in 2019, I don’t think anybody knows. But to bridge the gap between where we were at in that World Cup and, say, being in the semi-final or the final was the first port of the call. Bridging that gap came quicker that we ever thought it would.
“We got a huge amount of confidence from the selectors. Andrew Strauss, our director of cricket, gave absolute clarity in what we wanted. I think, as a captain and backroom staff, we certainly thrived on that. It’s not often you get free rein and ambition to be as adventurous as you like.”
Bayliss has been the subject of plenty of criticism following England’s Ashes defeat, but it has been clear throughout his tenure that apart from home success, his remit had been largely directed at the 50 and 20-over formats. As Jos Buttler put it to the BBC: “Trevor’s been fantastic for us. He creates a brilliant atmosphere around the team which allows people to go out and play in that free fashion. He doesn’t miss a beat, he sees everything that goes on and his great strength is he’s a great man manager. He really looks after people and gives them confidence. Any coach who can make the player feel 10 feet tall when they go out is fantastic.”
That confidence sat underneath Morgan’s response when queried on an Australian side his men were able to beat comfortably when they last met during the 2017 Champions Trophy, albeit with Ben Stokes as a key part of the outcome. “To be honest I haven’t looked at them a great deal, not until the last month or so,” Morgan said.
“I know they had a difficult run with weather in the Champions Trophy, they didn’t even complete a full game against us, and certainly that was a struggle for them. But they’re a very strong team, certainly at home. They don’t have as many changes as we have from Tests to one-dayers so they’ll probably be up on the confidence of the Ashes win.”
One thing that limited overs teams need less time to worry about is the prospect of conditions overly favouring the hosts. ODI pitches are seldom too far divergent from solid batting surfaces with fast outfields, even if heavy rain in Melbourne might ensure the need to run hard on the expanses of the MCG.
Morgan is confident that England can adapt. “We’ve certainly tempered our aggression with some smart cricket,” he said. “Given the grounds that we’ve played at around the world, we’ve been able to do that. More importantly, the wickets that we’ve played on, we’ve adapted to them. Par for the course for this series will be bringing out the positive aggressive style with the bat with adapting to the wicket.”