Eoin Morgan insists he would not think twice about dropping himself if it helped England’s chances of winning the World Cup.
As captain, Morgan has spearheaded England’s shift from also-rans at the 2015 tournament to top of the rankings ahead of next summer’s edition on home soil, and is the country’s top scorer in one-day cricket with 5,618 runs.
Despite his considerable position of strength, the Dubliner has made it clear that nobody should consider themselves certainties over the next eight months.
Speaking on the eve of England one-day series against Sri Lanka, Morgan said: “When you drop yourself as captain it almost sets that example, that nobody’s place is cemented in this side.
“If I’m not supposed to be in the team, I’ll be the first one to say it. If it means making a tough decision, I’m more than capable of doing that.
“It’s a brave call, but we’ve come a long way with this team. We need to put ourselves in the best position in order to be contenders. If that means I’m not good enough to be in the team, both as a captain or as a player... I’m a pretty honest guy.”
Morgan attracted criticism from some, including former captain Michael Vaughan, when he stepped aside from a Twenty20 decider against South Africa in 2017 to take a look at the likes of Liam Livingstone and Dawid Malan. The 32-year-old, though, is clear that he must continue putting the greater good first.
“In the past, I’ve dropped myself to create opportunities for guys in order to see if they can play at international level or give them an extra chance to prove themselves,” he said. “We’re trying to build a squad of 16 or 17 guys to win the World Cup, that’s the objective. It’s not an individual trying to get runs, not an individual trying to get wickets. It’s a team collective and everyone needs to buy into it.”
Vice-captain Jos Buttler would inherit the reins in the unlikely scenario of Morgan’s form slumping dramatically enough for him to step aside.
He is an increasingly influential figure across all formats and deputised impressively when Morgan declined to tour Bangladesh on security grounds in 2016.
If I’m not supposed to be in the team, I’ll be the first one to say it. If it means making a tough decision, I’m more than capable of doing that.Eoin Morgan
Buttler stepped in for Morgan again yesterday, but this time it was only for pre-match media duties at the Ranjiri Dambulla International Stadium. The wicketkeeper-batsman was in strident mood, happy to shake off the underdog tag which often follows England in the sub-continent.
They have won just six of their 21 ODIs on the island, with a solitary series victory in 2007, but are well fancied this time.
Sri Lanka lie eighth in the world after a winless run of nine series and bowed out of the Asia Cup after successive defeats to Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
“We are very happy to be favourites. We’ve been doing some good stuff and like being favourites,” he said.
“It’s been tricky in the past for English sides to come here but we are full of confidence and looking forward to the challenge, adapting our style of play and pushing the boundaries of what we are capable of in these conditions.
“There is always pressure being No 1, people want to chase you. Once you get there, that’s when the hard work really starts because you have a target on your back and it’s down to you to keep improving and stay there.”
Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal admits axed predecessor Angelo Mathews remains their best one-day batsman.
Mathews sits out the series after being dropped in acrimonious circumstances by selectors.
Chandimal said: “We all know he is our best batsman. I hope he will identify what he needs to do. It is mainly his fitness.”