Eoin Morgan has dismissed accusations that he used offensive language in historic social media posts which are the subject of an England and Wales Cricket Board investigation. The ECB is looking into comments made by Morgan and Jos Buttler on Twitter in 2017 and 2018, when both appeared to mimic Indian people saying “sir”.
Buttler posted a message in which he said “I always reply sir no1 else like me like you like me” and, separately, Morgan included Buttler in a message which read: “Sir you’re my favourite batsman”.
The messages re-emerged in the wake of the ECB’s decision to suspend Ollie Robinson for racist and sexist posts he made in 2012 and 2013 when he was still a teenager.
But Morgan insisted his use of the word “sir” was meant to convey “admiration and respect”, and said the posts had been misinterpreted.
“I find if I call somebody ‘sir’ on social media, or anywhere around the world, it’s a sign of admiration and respect,” he said. “If that’s taken out of context, there’s nothing I can control or do about it, so I haven’t actually looked into it.”
Morgan was addressing the issue ahead of the start of England’s white-ball summer, which begins on Wednesday with a Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka followed by a one-day international series against Pakistan. That Morgan was able to so comfortably fend off inquiries over his social media history – a thorny issue for the sport this summer – was a reflection of the power that he has in the English game, which is unrivalled. Not England’s head coach Chris Silverwood, not anybody in a suit, and certainly not the Test captain Joe Root can match him. Root has had to patch together a Test team out of odds and ends. As soon as England start playing T20 and ODI series over the next month, Morgan has a full-strength squad, apart from the rehabilitating Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes.
This conversation between England’s two captains must be awkward, even unequal, given that Root is desperate to be selected for Morgan’s T20 World Cup squad.
The only vacancy is for a No 3 batsman who can act as second spinner, whether in India or the United Arab Emirates if the tournament is relocated there. Dawid Malan, who batted three last winter, does not measure up as a spinner, whereas Liam Livingstone might, or Moeen Ali, or Root. Alex Hales is another whose form demands at least consideration, and while Morgan insists the Nottinghamshire player has yet to completely rebuild the bonds of trust which were broken when he failed a drugs test on the eve of the 2019 World Cup, there was a possible thawing in his attitude.
Asked whether he still had an England future, Morgan replied: “I think he does. When you look at the player that he is and the performances he puts in around the world, he’s a very fine player. There are conversations to be had between Alex, myself and the coach, and potentially a few of the players, but trying to get those happening in Covid times has been an issue. But they could happen at some stage.”
There was also, however, a note of caution. “When you look at the players that we have available, we’re spoiled. I think the longer you spend out of the side, the further away you get from the position you once had,” he added. Either way, Morgan has the pick of the crop for these white-ball series, even if he did concede it would be different later this summer. “Both sides are planning towards big events. Ours is the T20 World Cup, and the guys with the red ball, theirs are the India Test matches and the Ashes. You’ll see full-strength squads for them.”
To this end of winning a second World Cup, Morgan confirmed he would lead the England team this autumn to Bangladesh, which he declined to tour last time owing to his fears about security. Nothing will get in the way of England’s preparations for this T20 World Cup, certainly not the delayed second half of the IPL. “International duty takes precedence,” Morgan stated.
Only temerity would raise the question: why is Morgan still the ODI captain when the next World Cup is not until 2023, when he will be 37 or thereabouts. Suffice that he wants to be; and there must be an advantage in Morgan seeing how 50-over cricketers fare, with a view to their T20 form, to set against the consideration that Buttler could be settling in as captain before England defend their title.
Morgan needs Mark Wood – the only player from the Test squad – and his other pace bowlers to bowl short of a length in Cardiff, so Sri Lanka have to hit to the long square boundaries. And England normally play one spinner in Cardiff because the straight boundaries are short.
Local knowledge being so important, Sri Lanka will be doing well to win one of the two games there, and also because they are out of season, and out of contract, in another round in their players’ endless disputes with their board, which is effectively an arm of government.
Almost 3,000 spectators will be admitted, and the first game will also see the first female match official in a men’s international in England. Sue Redfern will be fourth umpire, having stood in last week’s Test between England Women and India Women at Bristol.