Chris Waters: Eoin Morgan is under pressure to start delivering for England

England's captain Eoin Morgan.
England's captain Eoin Morgan.
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“PRESSURE?” scoffed the legendary Australian all-rounder Keith Miller.

“Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse.”

He was responding to a question from Michael Parkinson as to how he coped with pressure in Test cricket.

Unsurprisingly for a man who flew Mosquitos in the war, Miller had a world view that put the game in perspective.

Pressure is an overused word in professional sport, and yet there is no doubt that Eoin Morgan is feeling it now.

Morgan might not have a Messerschmitt up his posterior, but he does have a growing army of critics questioning his place.

The England captain made 28 yesterday – a nothing score as his side lost the first one-day international against India in Pune by three wickets with 11 balls to spare.

It represented neither success nor failure on a personal level, just ongoing uncertainty and fuel for the fire.

Morgan, who feathered an edge behind off pace bowler Hardik Pandya, and then stood his ground hoping that the cameras would not notice, continues to be the weak link in the batting line-up.

He has managed just two half-centuries in 17 ODI innings; he has not scored a hundred for 24 innings.

In the warm-up games, Morgan made 3 and 0 and yet, because he is captain, kept his place ahead of Sam Billings, who top-scored with 93 in the first match, and Jonny Bairstow, who top-scored with 64 in the second.

If Bairstow cannot get into England’s one-day team, it must be a great team indeed, although Morgan bizarrely claimed at the toss yesterday that England are “a long way off being contenders for a major competition”.

It is precisely because England are contenders for a major competition – starting with this summer’s Champions Trophy in England – that they have lately been able to carry Morgan as a passenger.

But if results begin to slide, and unless he finds his form soon, that situation cannot be tolerated in perpetuity.

Indeed, it is only the power and profundity of England’s batting order that camouflages, to a certain degree, Morgan’s contributions.

More often than not he has been bailed out by team-mates; yesterday, the bailing out was done by Joe Root (78), Jason Roy (73) and Ben Stokes (62) as England scored 350-7, India recovering from 63-4 through an incredible 200-run stand between Virat Kohli (122) and Kedar Jadhav (120).

Regardless of that setback, the bigger picture is that England have done well in one-day cricket since the 2015 World Cup.

The improvements made subsequently under Morgan’s leadership have been mountainous if one considers England’s supine performances in that competition.

Since then, England have won five of their past seven series and they are the only country scoring at more than six runs an over in one-day internationals.

“Nice stepping stones to where we want to be,” said Morgan ahead of this match, which at least shows he has his feet on the ground.

There is much to admire about Morgan the captain.

He is attack-minded and has a natural calmness about him whatever the match situation or his personal predicament.

But underneath that unflappable exterior is a man who must know that it is unfair to keep saying to the likes of Billings and Bairstow, “Sorry, lads, but you’re not playing again” while he himself is bereft of runs.

Indeed, as we await – with increasing tedium – news of whether Alastair Cook is to continue as Test captain, there is a strong case for drawing a line under Morgan and Cook and simply saying to Joe Root: “Over to you”, not that English cricket usually proceeds along such revolutionary lines.

In contrast to Morgan, Root has a different sort of “problem” in that he keeps getting out between 50 and 100.

There was no “daddy hundred” yesterday for Root, who has just become a first-time father, whereas Kohli and Jadhav showed the ruthlessness required.

But it is surely only a matter of time before the Root production line churns out a run of three-figure scores, and what Morgan would give for a fraction of the Yorkshireman’s output.

One man whose production line seems to be working very nicely in that regard is Kohli, the inspirational India captain.

Whereas Morgan cannot buy a big score for love or money, Kohli seems to deal in nothing less.