England's Eoin Morgan defends decision to play in IPL

Eoin Morgan
Morgan made 131 in eight IPL innings for the Kolkata Knight Riders

England batsman Eoin Morgan insists he was right to delay his domestic season and play in the Indian Premier League.

"I felt the progress I made in the month or two out there would exceed the four games I might play in county cricket," said the 24-year-old.

Morgan returned to England to make 193 for the Lions last week and was chosen ahead of Ravi Bopara for the first Test against Sri Lanka starting on Thursday.

"My priorities are clear: Test cricket comes first and always has," he added.

Following Paul Collingwood's Test retirement at the end of the Ashes series in January, Morgan and Bopara were seen as the main candidates for the lower middle order batting position.

While Bopara turned down the chance to play in the IPL, Morgan accepted a lucrative contract to play for the Kolkata Knight Riders, making his final appearance on 14 May before joining Bopara in the Lions team for a four-day tour match against the Sri Lankans at Derby.

His 193 from 226 balls contained 30 fours and five sixes, while Bopara made only 17, and though Morgan scored only four in the second innings, the selectors decided on him for the first Test of the summer in Cardiff.

"I wasn't surprised," he said. "I went on the tour to Australia and I've been part of the side for some time now. It certainly wasn't a massive surprise."

Asked about his decision to choose the IPL in India over the start of the county season he said: "I knew it was a gamble, I knew that from the start.

"You have to gamble in order to throw yourself out there and do well. For me it was a hard decision but it was the right one.

"The amount I learned last year just by playing five games and staying out there for the next three weeks, practising every day and rubbing shoulders with legends of the game, did massive amounts for me."

Morgan had also revealed he would have returned to the IPL had he not been chosen for the Cardiff Test.

"Number one, I wanted to do something and number two, I was contractually obliged to go back out, I had no choice," he explained.

"If I wasn't picked for the squad I didn't want to hang around, dawdle and feel sorry for myself.

Steven Finn
Finn took nine wickets in the Lord's Test against Bangladesh last summer

"Test match cricket always comes first and foremost. It's why I play the game, it's where everybody tests themselves and what everybody is judged on."

Morgan's 6ft 7in Middlesex colleague Steven Finn, who took 14 wickets in three Ashes Tests, overcame the challenges of Ajmal Shahzad, Graham Onions and Jade Dernbach to earn a place in the 12-man squad for the Cardiff Test.

"It's great to be named in this squad, I'm delighted," said the 22-year-old, who took 3-90 in the second innings of the Lions match.

"We'll wait and see but I have a couple of days' practice to show what I can do and how I've improved from the winter.

"I feel better, more savvy. I feel as though I've learned from my experiences and it's an important thing to learn from them and learn fast.

"I'm not the finished article by any means but to come back from Australia having won the Ashes and feel like a better bowler is great."

Finn was not part of the team for the final two matches of the Ashes series and admitted: "It was difficult at times watching the guys out on the pitch while I was bringing the drinks with my bib on but these are the things that make you stronger as a character and stronger as a person.

"I feel I've improved vastly from where I was at the end of the Ashes series. I'm proud of what I did in that series but that's long gone now and it's important I look forward to the immediate future, try and get back in this Test team and stake a claim to be a consistent performer."

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