Eoin Morgan had no thoughts of retirement when he went to bed after the second one-day international against the Netherlands.
Next morning his thinking had changed so abruptly and irreversibly that the idea of making just one more international appearance, to add to the 356 games he played for England across three formats and 13 years, would make him “feel like an impostor”.
“I remember going to bed having written notes about various different things – team-oriented towards the World Cup, how to get there, what we’re doing, normal run-of-the-mill stuff that I do. And I slept well,” he said.
“I woke up the next morning with just a completely different feeling, one that I’ve never had before. And it’s hard to describe unless you go through it. I’ve done a lot of research over the last three years, talking to a lot of different players about it. The most common theme is: it’s a feeling. When you know, you know. And I always thought they were full of shit. But on the Monday, that’s how it felt.”
The previous day he had played what will be his final international in Amstelveen, where he scored a duck and sustained a recurrence of a groin injury. “I’ve woken up before with back spasms, discs slipped and all sorts of things. You work your way out of bed and you see a way forward,” he said. This was different. “I was out of form but previously when I’ve been out of form I’ve been able to see a picture out of it. If the team were doing crap, I could see a picture out of it. I couldn’t see either.”
The team had one more match to play before they returned home, but though he had not yet told anyone about his decision there was no thought of pushing himself through a farewell appearance. “It would have been completely unfair, and gone against everything I stand for. I just would have felt like an impostor.”
Morgan departs having won two World Cups, as England’s record appearance-maker in Twenty20 and ODI formats, scorer in each formats of the most runs and of the most sixes. He also led a revolution that turned the country’s white-ball side from circus act to world beaters, and which is now filtering into the Test side.
The 35-year-old will continue to play domestic cricket, and said he has “started to think I could offer more within the game, but I haven’t identified a role”. He will give his former teammates time to get used to life with their new coach, Matthew Mott, and new captain – Jos Buttler is the leading candidate – but has told them that “if at any time you want anything from me, just pick up the phone”.
This summer’s white-ball internationals will be spent in Sky’s commentary box, while he has already started a post-graduate diploma in strategic leadership and governance, a two-year course which he hopes “will allow me to sit on a board at some stage, wherever, whatever”.
One of the former cricketers who Morgan spoke to about retirement was the England Test coach, Brendon McCullum: “He said: ‘You’ll know. It will be a feeling that just comes and hits you. Just make sure you recognise it when it comes.’”
On Tuesday the New Zealander was one of those reacting to Morgan’s announcement. “Time stands still for no man,” McCullum said. “The impact he has had on English cricket and world cricket has obviously been significant. The players he has brought through – some of the most exciting players, superstars of the modern game – they might have got there anyway, but I think he got them there quicker. He’s a tremendous leader, a fine human being, and I am looking forward to catching up with him, sharing a couple of reds and celebrating what’s been a remarkable career.”