an Unknown quantity to world star in 12 months

AS the children of the Catholic University School in Dublin picked up their sticks for their bi-weekly hurling lesson, there was one lad standing in line looking slightly lost.

It was the class of 1998 when professional cricket in Ireland was light years away. But Eoin Morgan was a young man with a dream and he wasn’t going to give it up without a fight.

“Playing cricket was all I ever wanted to do,” he recalled, “but it wasn’t an easy ride, it wasn’t played regularly enough in Ireland.

“Whereas now there are 10 to 12 full-time cricketers in Ireland, in those days there were none. Opportunities were few and far between.”

Morgan’s dream took him to Dulwich College in south-east London where he learned the fine art of the game – and realised his dream of playing Test cricket for England.

“I remember watching the Ashes as a young lad and thinking ‘that’s where I want to be’,” he added. “Not one particular moment springs to mind, but I remember England’s great battles with Australia and the West Indies. I was hooked.”

While serving his apprenticeship at Middlesex, left-hander Morgan, in his own unique,
outlandish style, batted his way through the ranks for Ireland, making his one-day debut in 2006 and becoming the first Irishman ever to score a first-class double century with an unbeaten 209 against the United Arab Emirates.

But he never gave up on his dream of pulling on an England shirt and, after a taste playing for the Lions against South Africa, Irish team boss Roy Torrens, finally gave him the green light to chase his dream and join up with the 2009 ICC World Twenty squad – and a chance to play against his old Irish team-mates.

Now, with four one-day centuries to his name in a little over a year, Moggie, as he is affectionately known, has risen from international unknown to one of the most exciting young stars of world cricket.

Indeed, earlier this year he earned top pick status in the Indian Premier League auction, eventually being bought by the Royal Challengers Bangalore for $220,000.

“It’s been a hell of a year,” Morgan explained, “I really am living the dream. “First, establishing myself for England, and then playing in such a successful side, winning the Twenty20 World Cup and moving up to second in the world, it’s just got better and better. I have to pinch myself at times.”

But while Morgan’s flamboyance with the bat has lent itself perfectly to the limited-overs game, Morgan has also proved to selectors he has the nous to adapt to the five-day format as well.
In May, he took over from Paul Collingwood to make his Test debut against Bangladesh at Lord’s, and retained his place in the side for the subsequent Test series against
Pakistan, scoring his maiden Test century at Trent Bridge, thus announcing himself on the Test arena.

“Walking out for England in a Test match was a very proud moment in my life,” Morgan added. “To debut at such a young age, I didn’t expect it.”

Unsurprisingly, Morgan’s reward was to be named in England’s 16-man squad to tour Australia last week – finally fulfilling the dream.

And despite his somewhat unorthodox approach to Test cricket, Morgan believes he can prove a big hit Down Under and help England retain the Ashes urn for the first time in a quarter of a century.

“There has been talk about my style not being suited to Test cricket, and everyone is entitled to their views, but I don’t think I have a style,” he added. “Sure, I have a natural game, everyone does, but I enjoy the challenge of adapting to different situations in different arenas and I believe I can play that natural game in a Test match in the same way.

“Just being talked about in the same breath as a Ashes series is a huge privilege for me. Playing in Australia this winter gives it even more impetus, and although it will be the ultimate test of our ability and character, I believe we can win it.”

l Eoin Morgan was talking to City AM at Stoke Park to launch the partnership between NatWest Black Card and the England cricket team.