McCullum backs Morgan

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Published: Thursday 19th February 2015 by The News Editor

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New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum has described Eoin Morgan as a “champion bloke” and fully expects him to prove those doubting his leadership credentials wrong.

McCullum and Morgan are close friends, after playing alongside each other at the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, and went out for dinner in Wellington on Wednesday night ahead of their crunch World Cup clash.

The England captain’s miserable form was hardly top of their table talk and, while McCullum hopes to extend his poor run for at least another game, he is certain that Morgan has the character to emerge from his slump.

“I caught up with him last night; he’s a champion bloke and one of my better mates from around the world in terms of cricket,” McCullum said.

“We didn’t talk about it (Morgan’s form) too much to be honest.

“He’s obviously going through a bit of a tough time at the moment. Tough times don’t last but tough blokes do. Hopefully at some point he’ll come out of it.

“Hopefully tomorrow we’re able to keep him quiet, but I’m very confident at some point he will bounce out of it. He’s a quality player and a tough bloke too.”

The contrast between McCullum and Morgan’s positions at the early stage of the tournament are stark.

McCullum has a long-established reputation as one of the best leaders in world cricket and his inspirational qualities were immediately on show when he hit his first two balls of the World Cup, against Sri Lanka, to the boundary.

He has since overseen back-to-back wins to ensure New Zealand is already gripped by World Cup fever.

For Morgan his first tour as full-time one-day captain has lurched towards crisis as his century in the Tri-Series opener has almost been forgotten after a run of just two runs from five innings.

The 28-year-old has since had to fend off questions over his form, and whether it is undermining his captaincy, but McCullum feels it is too early to suggest Morgan’s lack of runs is hurting his leadership.

“Over a period of time it’s definitely important (to lead from the front).” he said.

“The hardest time and most important time to lead is when you’re struggling a bit with your own form.

“That’s when guys need to see whether you still have it in you to think about the team and the gameplan and driving the team ethos forward. That’s the hardest time but also the most rewarding when you do come out the other side.

“I’m sure where Morgs is at the moment, knowing him as I do, he will be very much still focusing on the team, albeit wanting to get his own performance up.

“It is tough but that’s the game that we play and it brings out different traits in people and that’s where you learn a lot about yourself when times are tough.

“That’s why when things are going good that you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself.”

McCullum confirmed that New Zealand would retain the same XI that secured wins in their opening two matches against Sri Lanka and Scotland.

The Black Caps are therefore already in a strong position in Pool A and are one of the form teams at the tournament having won 10 of their past 12 one-day internationals.

They have also won nine of their past 11 matches at the Wellington Regional Stadium – the venue for Friday’s game – but McCullum is wary of letting a “dangerous” England team slip under the radar.

“We’re aware of that but they’ve got match-winners and I’ve said right from the outset in this tournament, the wickets we play on allow match-winners to come into play,” he said.

“Even though a team may not be firing of late they’re still a dangerous proposition. We are respectful of that and we know we’re not good enough to take any team for granted.”

Published: Thursday 19th February 2015 by The News Editor

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