England captain Eoin Morgan is happy to carry on receiving coded messages from their dressing room balcony during the one-day series against South Africa, insisting that there is “nothing untoward” with using data as fuel for innovation.
Team analyst Nathan Leamon was spotted by television cameras showing letter and number combinations such as ‘2C’ and ‘4E’ on cards during the Twenty20 series between the sides, in a bid to provide Morgan with real-time information to feed into his decisions.
The innovation had been cleared with match referee Andy Pycroft but some have been critical of the backroom intervention.
Most notably Michael Vaughan, one of Morgan’s predecessors, labelled the move “nonsense” and “a step too far”.
Morgan, though, is more than happy to further trial the idea in the first of three ODIs against the Proteas on Friday.
“There’s nothing untoward about it, 100 per cent it is in the spirit of the game,” he said.
“It’s about maximising information that we’re taking in and measuring it against things – coaches’ recommendations, the data, things going on.
“We’ll definitely continue with it and give it enough of a sample size to see if it improves our decision making on the field or improves our performance.”
Any scepticism around the idea can be split into two camps – that it stands contrary to the spirit of the game or that it undermines Morgan’s role in leading the side in the heat of battle.
The first complaint has been partially answered by the match officials’ apparent indifference, while Morgan’s status as a World Cup winning skipper with huge kudos means he is secure enough in his job not to worry about the latter.
Bristling slightly as he positioned himself against the dissenting voices, he said: “I think captains are different. You get captains that enjoy the title and the power and the accolades that go with it.
“Then you have other captains that continue to be pushed and want to learn for the benefit of the team.
“For me this is a system we want to use to try and help myself and the other leaders within the side almost take a little bit of the emotion and the feel of the decision-making on the field and compare it to the hard data that is continuing to feed information to us on the field.”
After going with the same XI for all three Twenty20 wins, Morgan will lead a different looking side at Newlands. Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Sam Curran, Dawid Malan and Chris Jordan have all departed, meaning opportunities for others to raise their hands.
Joe Root will resume his role as the anchor of the batting order, while Moeen Ali, Mark Wood and Sam Billings are equally hopeful of making the cut after extended spells carrying the drinks.