Captain Morgan leading ODI revolution

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We all knew how New Zealand were going to play. They showed us so gloriously – painfully if you’re a Proteas supporter – at the World Cup. In Brendon McCullum they have a fearless captain who pushes himself and his players to the absolute limit.

Like a Formula 1 commentator it is just “Go, Go, Go” with McCullum and the Black Caps.

Apart from the meticulous Kane Williamson, there is no shifting through the gears, let alone using a hand-brake, it is simply a heavy foot on the accelerator throughout.

It certainly made for thrilling cricket at the World Cup and even though the Kiwis came unstuck in the final against Australia, there was no way McCullum and Co were going back to the pits to re-evalute their game plan. They are whole-heartedly committed to playing a positive brand of cricket.

In contrast, England endured a horrendous World Cup – highlighted by how McCullum’s troops embarrassed them at Wellington’s Cake Tin. They were a side craving – some would say they were desperate for – a new direction in limited-overs cricket.

Although Morgan waqs at the helm in Australia and New Zealand, he was still being weighed down by the baggage of the belated jettisoning of Test captain Alistair Cook only a couple of months before cricket’s jamboree.

The Irishman needed time to instil his philosophies – developed at the Indian Premier League, seen as a pariah competition by English cricket – for he wanted to start a revolution.

Morgan went off to the counties and shires to collect a group of competitors that would commit wholeheartedly. He was not asking players, with perceived weaknesses, to alter their techniques. Instead he wanted them to embrace what they had and lose their fear of failure – they would have his unconditional support.

For this new mindset to be effective, though, England required their leader to be at the forefront. They needed a talisman just like McCullum, who is the heart and soul of New Zealand. Morgan needed to stride out to the middle like it was his playground and not resemble the little left-hander who was tentatively scratching around for runs at the World Cup.

A team draws energy from its leader, and Morgan has responded with four consecutive half-centuries, including a match-winning century in the series leveller on Wednesday evening at Trent Bridge. No England ODI captain has achieved this feat before.

There was more than a hint of relevance that Morgan was the hero in Nottingham. The area is home to English folklore’s heroic sword-swinging outlaw Robin Hood, and Morgan swung his willow with the same combination of grace, style and brutality to win over the hearts of the often cynical England public. Morgan’s merry men have within two glorious weeks of the English summer become “The People’s Team”.

With every revolution there are drawbacks though. There are those who believe such run-fests where batsmen gorge themselves upon flat decks are harmful to cricket in the long term. That they will discourage an entire generation of young cricketers from becoming bowlers.

I am not overly concerned. Bowlers will always find ways to stay competitive. Twenty20 cricket has proved this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Despite doomsayers predicting the death of spin bowling, T20 has invigorated the art, with bowlers developing various types of “mystery” balls while retired Kiwi spinner Dan Vettori believes spinners’ levels of anticipation have improved through the shortest format.

My apprehension relates far more to the general decline in the standard of fielding, especially catching. This current series has witnessed both teams spilling a plethora of catches. In this professional era, with fielding coaches and various consultants forming part of an enlarged backroom staff, imnprovement is this discipline should be non-negotiable. I am not talking about the chance missed when diving airborne, one-handed, to the left. It’s the bread-and-butter chances which go a-begging that infuriate me. If we are so concerned about bowlers’ livelihoods, get the fielders to help out by holding on to those bread-basket chances at slip, mid-off, short mid-wicket, fine-leg…

The epidemic developed at the IPL and it now seems to have spilled over to international cricket.If an international goalkeeper drops the ball, and concedes a goal, he is crucified the next day and possibly loses his position. We are far too forgiving in cricket.

Durham’s Chester-le-Street is set to haul out its prettiest frock for a potentially epic series-decider tomorrow. McCullum has been a sleeping giant thus far in the series and it could be his moment to pounce. The momentum though is with England and their captain Morgan.

Don’t, however, be surprised if the outcome is determined by which team holds on to their chances the best instead of who hits the most sixes. For as much as the game changes, it stays the same – catches still win matches. - Cape Argus

Original source: Captain Morgan leading ODI revolution

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