Some sportsmen swear there is no substitute for match practice, but England Twenty20 captain Eoin Morgan believes he is “twice the man” he was before an unscheduled month off.
Morgan will lead the Three Lions out in today’s one-off NatWest T20 against Australia at Cardiff having not played competitively since August 1.
After a run of poor form for Middlesex – the Dubliner averaged 26 in the shortest format, 10.16 in first-class cricket and just 6.66 in the Royal London Cup – he was granted a break by the county.
Having led England’s ill-fated World Cup campaign Down Under before travelling to the Indian Premier League, it was decided time away from the game would be more beneficial than continuing his losing battle against form and fatigue.
It is an unsual way for an England captain to lead in to a match against the old enemy, but Morgan believes it was just what he needed.
He found a sympathetic ear in Middlesex director of cricket Angus Fraser, though his role as an England selector might also have played a part.
“I was the one who brought it up. I sat down with Gus and discussed the pros and cons of it,” said Morgan.
“To start with Gus was very understanding and brilliant in the way he managed it, because he said the priority was English cricket.
“That is a tough decision to deal with as a director of a county team. I can’t imagine there are many county directors that would have taken English cricket as a priority over possibly Championship or one-day games.
“But we talked about the benefits of it and, sitting here now, I’m probably twice the man I was a month ago because of the schedule, the hectic nature of it, the amount of cricket we play and the very little time off.”
Morgan was initially slated to miss three one-day games and one LV= County Championship fixture, but he ultimately sat out another of each.
“It started with two-weeks off and then we decided, would playing one game before the one-day series make much of a difference?” he explained.
“I said no, I haven’t played for two weeks and another two weeks off would be ideal, to be honest.
“I feel really fresh now. My attitude, my mind, my body is a lot better than it was a month ago. I’m raring to go.”
Coming after the drama of England’s 3-2 Ashes victory and before a five-match ODI series, a standalone T20 match could appear to be the orphan of the international summer. But in reality neither side can afford to treat it as anything other than crucial learning time with the World Twenty20 coming in March.
England have just seven matches in the format before that, and five before they are due to name their squad for the tournament.
Having exited the previous edition in the group stages and bowed out with an embarrassing defeat to Holland, Morgan is charged with delivering much better this time.
Part of the rationale for appointing Trevor Bayliss as head coach was his limited-overs expertise and Morgan confirmed that white-ball cricket was now being moved to the front of the agenda – despite tricky Test assignments against Pakistan and South Africa around the corner this winter.
“Our priority now turns to the T20 World Cup and driving our one-day cricket forward,” he said.
“We have the group of players we’ve seen throughout the last one-day series against New Zealand and I’m hoping we can add five or six more names to that pool that we can stick with over the next two or three years to build something.”
England, of course, won their first major global tournament at the 2010 World T20, but with the continued rise of the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash – and the dearth of Englishmen participating in those events – there has been little or no legacy in the format.
“I think we simply haven’t been good enough,” added Morgan.
“Our skill level hasn’t been good enough to string enough wins together. We’ve had a couple of World Cups since then and we haven’t peaked at the right time.
“We have, I think, the players to do that, but we need them in good form and to form the right plan to suit the players that we have.
“We want to get a formula together before the next World Cup and that is obviously crucial.”
Charlotte Edwards wants to remain as England captain despite her side surrendering the Women’s Ashes with Friday’s Twenty20 defeat to Australia. England collapsed to 87 all out while chasing 108 to win at Hove to allow Australia to take an unassailable 10-4 lead in the multi-format series with one more T20 to play.
Friday’s victory means the three-match T20 series is now level at 1-1 and Edwards says: “I feel I have a lot to contribute to this team. This is not the time to walk away from English cricket.
“I don’t think one bad series defines me as a player or captain.”
The final match of the series, the third T20 encounter, takes place in Cardiff today.