Eoin Morgan’s revelation that he broke a finger during the Champions Trophy campaign and now needs an operation has saved the England selectors an awkward conversation.
Morgan suffered the injury during the Champions Trophy semi-final against South Africa on June 19 and though he played in the final against India, the pain proved too much during Tuesday’s first T20 against New Zealand at the Oval.
"It's looking like an operation to try and get it pinned and ready as soon as possible," Morgan said.
"It can be as short as two to three [weeks out] and then ongoing from there. Obviously it will be closely monitored by our backroom staff, who have been exceptional, and hopefully I'll get back to full fitness as soon as possible."
Kevin Pietersen replaced Morgan in Thursday’s second T20 against the Black Caps at the Oval, a game that was abandoned due to rain after two balls of the England innings.
If he hadn’t been injured, the selectors may well have been thinking of dropping Morgan for the game anyway.
The Irishman is arguably the best limited-overs batsman in the England team, but he is on a shocking run of form since the start of May.
He did not get past 15 in his last four innings for Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, and apart from a score of 49 in the ODI match against New Zealand at Trent Bridge, has added little to the England team in either the one-day or T20 format this season.
His one chance to impose himself and silence the doubters came in the Champions Trophy final, but when well-set against India and on the verge of leading his adopted country to the title, he smeared Ishant Sharma across the line and was caught by Ravichandran Ashwin at mid-on.
England at that point needed just 20 from 16 balls with six wickets in hand, and a player who had previously seemed an automaton in pressure situations had wilted again.
Morgan has always been a self-confident young man. When offered a contract by Cricket Ireland as a teenager, he accepted the deal but warned them that one day he would leave Ireland to play for England.
His batting demeanour is icy and infused with belief in his own ability. Although he has held an Indian Premier League contract since 2010, he arguably only became a big-name player in India just before Christmas last year.
England batsman Morgan needed to score three off the final ball of the T20 international against India in Mumbai on December 22.
Before Ashok Dinda bowled that delivery there was an Indian brains trust meeting that involved the bowler, the captain MS Dhoni and any senior India player who fancied voicing an opinion.
It took over two minutes for the ball to be bowled. Dinda initially aborted his run-up in the delivery stride. Indian television focussed on the Dubliner. Morgan looked calm, amused even, at the obvious gamesmanship.
When the ball finally arrived, a full ball outside off stump, Morgan casually swung the arms and plonked the ball over long off for six.
This season, however, Morgan has found that he has not been able to impose himself on games like the Morgan of old.
The steely demeanour remains, but the 26-year-old is no longer playing those match-changing innings.
The next time Morgan will be required by England will be for the one-day series against Australia, which starts on August29.
However, despite his own optimistic two week prognosis, his broken finger could conceivably keep him out of Middlesex’s domestic T20 campaign, leaving him with precious few matches to secure his international place.
Morgan now needs to hope that England’s limited-overs coach Ashley Giles and the selectors retain as much confidence in his abilities as he himself does.
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- Eoin Morgan