Cow Corner

Does Morgan have a Test future?

Cow Corner

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It was not unexpected. Eoin Morgan always looked set to be dropped after enduring a truly dismal tour of the UAE, and so it proved as the squad was announced.

Morgan's omission was widely anticipated after a horrid six weeks in which he mustered a paltry 184 runs in 13 international innings at an average of just 13.66 across the Tests, one-day internationals and Twenty20s.

In the process, Morgan becomes the first England batsman to be dropped from the Test side - ignoring the retirement of Paul Collingwood and injuries - since Ravi Bopara during the 2009 Ashes series.

Given the England selectors' staunch defence of the current crop of players and their reluctance to tinker, this was a significant - if unfortunate and regrettable - move for them to make.

This is a crushing blow for the 25-year-old Irishman, who has previously thrived in pyjama cricket for England with his innovative and unorthodox middle-order batting.

Andy Flower immediately came out to defend Morgan and insist that this does not spell the end for a promising and unique talent, but the head coach is not a man to make changes unless they are entirely justified.

"He's had a tough tour of the UAE, we've been here for two months and it's been hard work for him. He has got some work to do I think on his Test game - that's going to be quite difficult for him considering his next cricket is going to be IPL cricket.

"He's a very talented player, a very confident player and a very dangerous player," he added. "If he can get his game in order - so that the next time he gets a game in Test cricket he can grab it with both hands - then he will fulfil his wishes for his cricket career and England will be a better side for it."

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There is never any hiding Flower's disdain for the IPL and his frustration that his players would seek to use their extremely limited free time plying their trade on the arduous and demanding circus... sorry, circuit.

Equally, there is no masking Flower's sense of disappointment that a player he backed to the hilt to make a successful transition from the one-day game to the longest format has so patently failed to adapt his game.

It would be harsh to suggest that Morgan does not have the capabilities to perform in Test cricket: more specifically, it is a collection of flaws and frailties in his technique that have undermined his talent.

While the attention has been focused on Morgan's failings in the UAE, a more established England batsman has survived the chop.

Ian Bell, who averaged 8.50 in the three Tests against Pakistan, had enough credit in the bank after cementing his spot in the England middle order with a string of impressive displays over the summer.

However, Bell's place will come under increasingly intense scrutiny if he continues his abject run of form on the tour of Sri Lanka.

It is Ravi Bopara who is likely to benefit most from Morgan's absence this time with a chance to resume his Test career after encouraging form in the one-day series against Pakistan. However, it isn't a certainty that he will get his chance with Patel also an option at number six, while Tim Bresnan could also be recalled at number seven with Matt Prior moving up one place if conditions demand five frontline bowlers.

England's quest for elusive success in a part of the world that does not suit their game will challenge both the players and the leadership of Flower and Strauss, whose job it is to select and balance their side from this squad.

National selector, Geoff 'Dusty' Miller, said: "We have selected a squad that we feel will be able to make best use of the conditions we are likely to encounter in Sri Lanka. There is no doubt that this Test series will be a challenging one but it is exciting that players have an opportunity to demonstrate that they have learnt from the disappointment of the Pakistan Test series and can make further strides in developing the skills needed to succeed on the subcontinent."

England are a wounded beast after having been not just beaten by Pakistan in the Test series, but utterly humiliated: as the top-ranked side in the world, the onus is on the tourists to respond.

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The squad will depart for Sri Lanka in two lots with an advanced group leaving on March 5 for a training camp under the guidance of Graham Gooch. Bell, Steven Davies, Monty Panesar, Samit Patel, James Tredwell and captain Andrew Strauss will fly out on March 5 before being joined by the remaining members on March 10. Flower's job will be to ensure that the squad are quickly united.

For Patel and Tredwell, their inclusions reflect the faith placed in them to hit the ground running if handed an opportunity; with four spinners in the squad, they would be expected to perform in conditions conducive to their talents.

England have two warm-up matches before the first Test in Galle on March 26, and Flower admitted that his squad's preparations ahead of the Pakistan series were far from ideal. There are further issues to be addressed, and Flower is another who needs to learn fast.

Morgan had to be dropped, but he should not be regarded as the lone fall guy following an insipid showing in the longest format in the UAE: it only requires a brief perusal of the England series ratings to realise that this was a collective failing in the truest sense.

With Morgan confined to a watching brief between IPL commitments, it is now up to Bopara, Bell and England's other underperforming batsmen to show why they deserve to be included once more.

The question that is left in the wake of this England squad announcement as the attention turns to the tour of Sri Lanka is, 'Where does this leave Morgan?' His biggest challenge going forward will be to convince the selectors that he can evolve as a player, and as a character.

YOUR VIEW: Do you think Morgan has a Test future for England? Were the selectors right to include Patel and Tredwell? What changes would you have made to the squad?

Post your views and comments below...

England squad to tour Sri Lanka: Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel, Matt Prior, Steven Davies, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, James Tredwell, Monty Panesar

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