Two England captains contemplating World Cup semi-finals on the same day. It is does not get much better than that – except that there is the possibility of Eoin Morgan and Charlotte Edwards being in Kolkata on Saturday to discuss their chances in the finals of the tournament the following day.
Edwards, who leads England’s women against Australia on Wednesday, has been this way before – she has, after all, been captain for 10 years. It is a fresher experience for Morgan, who took over the one-day captaincy just over a year ago before the 50-over World Cup. However, on that expedition England were light years away from reaching the semi-finals. Now a final beckons if they can beat New Zealand under the lights of Delhi.
Morgan has overseen a transformation in England’s one-day fortunes, based upon playing a free and fearless type of game that was way beyond them a year ago. He wants to take the pressure off his players, to let them breathelet his players breathe and he acknowledges that the model for his team is, to a large extent, the Kiwi side they meet on Wednesday night.
“I feel excited,” Morgan said. “But I don’t feel I’m close to a World Cup final and that’s a really good place to be – not getting too far ahead of ourselves. We’ve got a tough game against a really strong New Zealand side, who have probably played the best cricket in the group stages.”
Morgan sounds grateful to the Kiwis, England’s first opponents after that calamitous World Cup campaign in Australasia. “The series against New Zealand [in England last June] was very important. We were miles away from where they were. To bridge the gap we had to try and emulate the fashion in which they played and the aggressive nature they went about their game – particularly with the ball.” Thus New Zealand have played a key part in England’s revival.
Semi-finals can be the most gut-wrenching of occasions but Morgan suggested that the pressure was off his young team. “In my experience in getting to the knockout stage of any tournament you have done the hard work and it is almost now that you have earned the licence to go out and express yourself as much as you can. If you have guys coming out who are very relaxed about performing on the big stage I think that takes a lot of weight off your shoulders.”
Edwards also talked of diluting the pressure, happy to see her side viewed as the underdogs in their semi-final after Australia had won the Ashes in 2015. “We are not putting too much pressure on ourselves. One learning curve of last summer was dealing with expectation, which we didn’t do very well.”
But Edwards has been around for a long time now and she is a battle-hardened cricketer under no illusions. “Any England-Australia game, Ashes or World Cup, is one of the biggest games you’ll play in and this one is no different,” she said.
It would, however, be very different if the next plane boarded by Edwards and Morgan and their teams was heading for Kolkata rather than Heathrow.
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