On both those occasions, in 2011 and 2013, Morgan stonewalled questions about his six years as an Ireland international before his dramatic decision to declare for England ahead of the 2009 ICC World Twenty20.
Morgan is a polarising figure to the English sporting public who has also come in for criticism for his refusal to sing “God Save The Queen” ahead of World Cup matches, and for his decision to withdraw from last winter’s tour to Bangladesh over security concerns. Morgan is currently midway through a six-week spell in the lucrative Indian Premier League but has put his King’s XI Punjab duties on hold to fly back to skipper England against Ireland in Bristol today and at Lord’s on Sunday. Aware of the questions marks around his dedication to England, the 30-year-old usually flat bats away invitations to reminisce about his time with Ireland.
So it was a genuine surprise that Morgan finally felt relaxed enough to share the story of his disastrous debut as a 16-year-old for Ireland against Free Foresters at Eton College in 2003.
“I was rooming with the bowler, Paul Mooney, who was being rested for the game so he had a couple of drinks and stayed up a bit later,” he said at yesterday’s press conference at the County Ground, Bristol.
“I batted number three and got run out either without facing a ball, or maybe facing just the one.
“I came in and Paul was asleep on the floor of the changing room, so I quietly took my pads off and went out to watch the rest of the game.
“15 overs later, he came out and sat beside me, nudged my leg and said: “What number are you batting today?”
“That was my debut!”
He may have been tempted to let his guard down following a quite spectacular piece of stirring from his great friend, Ireland wicket-keeper Niall O’Brien, during an interview with an English newspaper yesterday. O’Brien, the joker-in-chief of the Ireland dressing-room, knows that Morgan dislikes being asked about his time with Ireland, and so cheekily suggested in an interview that his former 2007 World Cup team-mate might give up the England captaincy after the 2019 World Cup to play T20 franchise cricket and return to play Test cricket for Ireland.
O’Brien, now combining a domestic cricket career in Ireland with his work for a sports PR agency in London, was renowned throughout his 12 years on England’s county cricket circuit for his off-the-wall sense of humour.
Once, while wicket-keeping for Leicestershire while his brother Kevin was batting for Somerset, he was heard on the stump microphone telling his younger sibling: “You know, Mum never loved you?”
And O’Brien will have been delighted that his latest joke hit the target, with an amused but exasperated Morgan again forced to deny during yesterday’s press conference at the County Ground, Bristol that he would ever again represent the country of his birth.
“No, that’s very cheeky, no chance, no chance,” Morgan insisted. Ireland have no injury worries ahead of today’s game, and skipper William Porterfield hopes his side can put on a show for Ireland’s “Blarney Army” of supporters, who are expected to travel in their thousands for the games in Bristol and at Lord’s. “It is great to play in front of those crowds but we want to put in a performance for them to shout about.”
William Porterfield, Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien, Andrew Balbirnie, Gary Wilson, Kevin O’Brien, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Tim Murtagh, Peter Chase, George Dockrell, Stuart Thompson, Craig Young.