When the final Kia Super League squads were announced back in April, one intriguing development stood out: the news that six former England internationals had been tempted out of retirement to take part in the tournament.
One of the six is 2009 double-World Cup winner Beth Morgan – who retired from international duty due to a shoulder injury in January 2013, having played in 7 Tests, 72 ODIs and 28 Twenty20s. She is widely recognised as one of England’s best batsmen of recent times, and is remembered, of course, for her vital, match-winning partnership with Claire Taylor of 122 in the 2009 World T20 semi-final against Australia at the Oval.
It’s fitting, then, that Morgan will be back in action at that same ground in the inaugural KSL for Surrey Stars – and when we spoke to her on Sunday she was absolutely relishing the prospect. “I’m very proud to have been selected,” she said. “Surrey is a prestigious club and to be training at the Oval is amazing. I’m just enjoying it and looking forward to the experience, and hopefully we can do well.”
Since her retirement in 2013, Morgan has continued to play for Middlesex, stepping down as captain only at the end of the 2014 season after 8 years at the helm. She remains the backbone of their middle-order, though, as she proved during Sunday’s “Finals Day” match against Warwickshire, sharing a 98-run partnership with Fran Wilson to take her side to an 8-wicket victory.
Morgan, then, will be starting the KSL having once again found her form, and while she is cautious about setting out her stall ahead of the competition – “we’ll see if I get out there…hopefully I can contribute” – it seems pretty obvious that the Stars would be crazy to overlook her talent and experience.
As Morgan herself acknowledges, that is part of the excitement of seeing so many ex-England players back out there on the pitch: “The standard of the young players coming through is amazing to see, but having that experience, you can’t substitute that – that’s really valuable to have Laura Newton, Rosalie Birch, Arran Brindle, those guys. It hopefully will add a lot of value to what should be a really good competition anyway.”
KSL does, of course, present several challenges for the more experienced players like Morgan. She highlighted the need to work harder in training prior to such an intense competition: “I’m trying to do as much as I can really. Maintaining the body, making sure that’s fit and ready to go. It’s really really important that all the county players, but certainly the older players, can compete and keep up and make sure they’re contributing just as much as everybody else. You can’t have a weak link in these things. I have to work a bit harder but I’m happy to do that, I’m really enjoying it.”
While KSL players will be paid match fees, we are a long way off being able to consider most KSL players even semi-professionals; and another complication for players like Morgan is therefore the need to juggle Super League around pre-existing work commitments. For Morgan, she has had to take a mixture of paid and unpaid leave in order to make herself available for KSL – but, she says, “it’s worth it. It’s a great opportunity and I’m going to do everything that I can to make the best of it and be the best that I can be, to help Surrey Stars.”
If Super League can extend the careers of players like Morgan, that can surely only be a good thing. We at CRICKETher are very much looking forward to seeing her – as well as her contemporaries Arran Brindle, Laura Newton, Rosalie Fairbairn, Laura Spragg and Lauren Griffiths – back out there on first-class grounds, playing against the world’s best.