England’s limited overs captain Eoin Morgan sees the upcoming three-match ODI series against India as a formidable challenge and expressed happiness at the quality of the teams his side will face in the two warm-up games here tomorrow and on January 12.
“Playing abroad is a different challenge, a challenge which everyone is looking forward to. India is a great place to come and win a series because they are very good at home,” said the Irish-born captain on the eve of England’s opening game against an India A side led by India’s most successful captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
England’s poor 50-over record in India of three successive defeats, including 5-0 whitewashes in 2008-09 and 2012 followed by the 3-2 defeat in their previous series in 2013, showed how big a task lay ahead of the visiting team.
“I think the two warm-up games (at the Cricket Club of India) have strong sides. It’s a great preparation to adapt and perform at skill levels that are needed here to win,” he remarked.
England and India open the three-match ODI rubber at Pune on January 15 which is followed by matches at Cuttack (Jan 19) and Kolkata (Jan 22) before the two sides start contesting in a three-match T20 series that concludes on February 1.
The hard-hitting batsman gushed about the captaincy skills of Dhoni, who has stepped down from the helm to pave the way for Test captain Virat Kohli.
“MS is obviously a very good captain, has been for a long time and his leadership in the 2011 World Cup was exceptional.
His record speaks for itself.
“Virat has a little bit of an advantage in that he has been captain in the Test scene now. Of course he is a very good player. (But) You know, until you captain (lead), you don’t know how things will go,” he added.
England are now solely focused on white ball cricket till the Champions Trophy that the country is to host in June, and Morgan said the series thus assumes added importance.
“I am extremely excited about the next five-six months leading towards the Champions Trophy as we have only white ball cricket from now up to that,” said the 30-year-old Dublin-born cricketer.
“I think in the context of the next five months it’s important to get a good start. For the build-in that we have had and our record at home, considering that the next two (ICC) tournaments are at home, it’s crucial.”
England are to host the 2019 cricket World Cup.
Morgan brushed aside suggestions that the 4-0 Test series defeat, in which nine of his team members took part, would have any effect on how they will play in the limited overs versions.
“They are very motivated. In India, regardless which format has been played first, the side generally improves and since this side has been together there has been no backlash or no repurcussions from any performance. I don’t expect it to have any effect,” he emphasised.
“Before we played together as a group two years ago there was always nervous anticipation about what to come. I have been surprised at the level of skills and consistency we have shown between now and then. I am impressed.
“We have grown and learnt and also got a small bit of success,” he remarked about England’s improvement as a limited over outfit over the last couple of years.
He got upset when asked whether he considered himself as a certainty for the Champions Trophy.
“Nothing is a certainty, absolutely nothing. I think things have gone pretty well for us. Over a small period of time we have had a little bit of success. We have a fantastic group of players, very talented and very driven, and they want to do well,” he answered curtly.
Morgan also dismissed a notion that he regretted not having gone to Bangladesh recently because of security concerns.
“I don’t regret that at all. I am comfortable about that decision.”
He also informed that key batsman Joe Root, who has not travelled with the team for personal reasons, will be available for selection for the first ODI at Pune.
“They (Root and his wife) have had a baby and he should be here and ready for selection for the first ODI,” said the England skipper.
Root is expected to arrive here on January 12 before travelling with the team to Pune the next day.