Cricket World Cup: Eoin Morgan on England's rise to top of world rankings

Eoin Morgan stock
Eoin Morgan is seen as the man behind England's rise to best in the world
ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019
Dates: 30 May - 14 July, 2019
Live coverage: Ball-by-ball commentary on Test Match Special, plus text commentary, clips and highlights on the BBC Sport website

England's one-day team has enjoyed a dramatic transformation since their embarrassing exit from the 2015 World Cup in Australia.

From no-hopers to world beaters, they go into this summer's World Cup, which starts on Thursday, as hosts and favourites.

Captain Eoin Morgan is credited as being one of the key men behind the reversal in fortunes. Here, he describes England's four-year journey to former England skipper Michael Vaughan.

Listen to the full interview on Test Match Special's World Cup daily podcast.

'We were humiliated'

Eoin Morgan covers his face
Eoin Morgan said he was 'humiliated' by the manner of England's exit in 2015

In 2015, in a tournament all-but designed to ensure progression for all of the world's leading nations to the last eight, England failed to make it past the group stage - only managing to beat Scotland and Afghanistan. Their fate was sealed by a defeat by Bangladesh, after particularly heavy losses to New Zealand, Australia and Sri Lanka.

Morgan: "We were humiliated. There are two games which stand out for me in that World Cup which confirmed we were underprepared and so far off the mark - the first one being against New Zealand. We were bowled out for 123 and New Zealand knocked them off in 12.2 overs.

"The second moment was that game against Bangladesh. We were chasing 275, and we were more than capable of chasing it down - it was on a good wicket and against Bangladesh, who we had beaten previously in one-day series.

"When it came to every crunch moment in the chase, however, we fell short. We crumbled."

The phone call that changed English cricket forever?

Andrew Strauss stock image
Former England director of cricket Andrew Strauss shared Morgan's vision for revitalising England's one-day team

Following the World Cup, England replaced head coach Peter Moores with Trevor Bayliss. However, they stuck by their captain...

Morgan: "Being given the opportunity to continue leading the side allowed me to reaffirm ideas I had during the 2015 World Cup.

"We recognised we were so far off the mark, needed to change the way we played and needed to have one clear goal as a team.

"The phone call from [England director of cricket] Andrew Strauss was a huge confidence booster for me. He gave me absolute clarity that we needed to change things drastically and he would give us time to change them.

"In the 2015 World Cup, there was a drastic change in the move towards higher scores. Scores moved from 300 to 330 on average and that meant you had to change everyone's default mode.

"As a group, we'd been together for a long time and played the same cricket. When we were put under pressure we would go into our shell and be unable to play any shots."

Ripping it all up and starting again

Jason Roy picture from 2017
Since 2018, Jason Roy, pictured, and Jonny Bairstow have scored the most century opening partnerships in ODI cricket

England's personnel changed dramatically as they brought in the likes of Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett for their first home series after the World Cup.

Morgan: "Our strongest point was our bowlers - Anderson, Broad and Tredwell were awesome - but, unfortunately, the 50-over game wasn't lending itself to that kind of bowling.

"With the bat, you needed to be able to post 330-350, so to choose guys whose default mode was pure aggression was something we highlighted in selection.

"We identified guys with a lot of talent who would fit the mould; guys who if they did get knocked back at some stage, they would come back harder.

"One of the major things that came into consideration was people's capacity to continue to learn and get better: guys who would be potentially be coming into their peak in four years' time.

"It all stemmed from Strauss. In the first selection meeting we had, he gave absolute clarity and clear direction. He emphasised that Test cricket wasn't going to be the only priority over the next four years and that white-ball cricket would take a front seat."

'We were jealous of them' - tapping into the New Zealand model

Brendon McCullum action picture
Brendon McCullum took New Zealand to the final of the World Cup in 2015

England's first series was against New Zealand, who had reached the World Cup final by playing fearless, aggressive cricket. England took a similar approach and the improvement was instant as they posted 408-9 in the first match. High scores soon became the norm.

Morgan: "One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was given the captaincy was to be myself. I have played against and am very good friends with [former New Zealand skipper] Brendon McCullum.

"If you look at his body language at any stage of any game it's extremely positive, he's always on the front foot and leading from the front regardless of the scoreboard or the situation of the game. I like to pick his brain. As a pure leader, he's exceptional.

"New Zealand had embodied playing fun cricket under McCullum. Playing against them, we were a little bit jealous.

"We weren't enjoying our cricket and that was something we wanted to change. Transforming your game from an average-scoring side to one who scored 350 or 400 is extremely exciting and fun to be part of.

"Throughout the first couple of years as a side, none of the talk was results based. The talk in the dressing room was about changing our method.

"We had to accept it would take time and develop trust by selecting players continuously, providing they played for the team with that one goal of trying to win the game with the bat or ball. If guys went for runs with the ball, as long as they stuck to trying to get wickets they would continue to be selected.

"That has been worth its weight in gold because it has developed a lot of trust between the coach, captain and the players."

Not touring Bangladesh

Jos Buttler is surrounded by armed soldiers in Bangladesh
Jos Buttler captained England in Eoin Morgan's absence in Bangladesh

As England swept all before them, all seemed well. Morgan, however, was criticised for deciding not to tour Bangladesh in 2016 over safety concerns.

Morgan: "It was a difficult decision and one I didn't find easy to make. I thought of all the consequences - losing the captaincy, being dropped and English cricket going in a different direction - and I came back to the advice I was given about being true to myself.

"If I had gone and didn't feel safe to go and perform in an England shirt, it wouldn't have sat well with me and would have rubbed off on the other players.

"Since then, everyone within the group has accepted that was my decision. I'm a guy of strong principles and I think people respect that."

'A reminder of how bad things were' - Morgan's diary

Eoin Morgan celebrates a series win against Australia in 2018
England have not lost a one-day series since defeat to India in early 2017

England displaced India as the number one ODI side in the world in May 2018, reaching the Champions Trophy semi-final in 2017 along the way. They have held on to that position ever since. Morgan, however, is keen not to forget where they came from.

Morgan: "I have a diary and a lot of it is about the team. It's about what makes people tick.

"I want to continually make players better people and cricketers. To do that you have to make notes. You can't remember every single thing.

"The things I look back on constantly are the lessons I learned from 2015. It reminds me of how bad things were and how good things are now.

"One of the important things as a captain or coach is knowing what's going on around you, and knowing the right thing to say at the right time.

"Depending on the mood, it might not be to say anything. A good horse trainer lets his horse go out and run. The jockey steers it but the horse has to run the race. But if something needs to be said, it'll be said."

A visit from Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate stock image
Gareth Southgate led England's men's football team to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018

England are heavy favourites heading into the World Cup and among the things they have done off the field to deal with the pressure is ask England's men's football manager Gareth Southgate to talk to the squad.

Morgan: "It's a huge opportunity for us this summer and I don't think it is pressured. Everywhere we have been for the past two or three years - tough places like Australia and India away - we've been favourites. If guys didn't enjoy being favourites, it would become pressure. I see it as opportunity.

"Gareth Southgate came to talk to us for a couple of hours recently, and he was outstanding.

"He talked us through his journey as manager during the World Cup and where England were striving to be.

"For a lot of our players it resonated with exactly what they are going through at the moment, because that was us three, four years ago - trying to get to the stage where we went into a major tournament as favourites.

"He talked about pressure and opportunity: ultimately, pressure is self imposed.

"As a child you dream of scoring 100 in a Test match or hitting the winning runs in a World Cup final. I never dreamed I would captain England in a home World Cup.

"It's such a privileged position to be in. I think I'm one of the luckiest people in the world."

Top Stories