Morgan: Tests come first
Batsman named in England squad despite early-season IPL absence
Last Updated: 23/05/11 5:30pm
Morgan: missed start of county season to participate in IPL
Eoin Morgan concedes he may have been gambling with his England place by choosing the Indian Premier League over the start of the county season - but insists Test cricket is his top priority.
The Dublin-born batsman opted to take up a lucrative Twenty20 contract with Kolkata Knight Riders instead of honing his first-class game with Middlesex.
That was in contrast to his batting rival Ravi Bopara, who opted to turn down a similar deal to play for Essex, and many felt Morgan would be the odd man out when the selectors named their squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka.
Instead, Morgan used his only chance to impress - an England Lions match against the tourists - to hit an eye-catching 193 and edge out Bopara, who made just 17 in the same innings.
"My priorities are quite clear: Test match cricket comes first and always has done."
Eoin Morgan Quotes of the week
Morgan intended to return to the IPL if he missed out on selection - a plan which raised eyebrows in some quarters - but is content that his high-risk strategy this season has proved the right one.
"I wasn't surprised (to be named in the squad)," said Morgan ahead of Thursday's match at Cardiff's SWALEC Stadium.
"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, no.
"But I knew it (going to India) 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."
England's national selector Geoff Miller said at the weekend he planned to talk with Morgan about his priorities after the revelation that he would have returned to the sub-continent had he not been required for Test duty, but the batsman is in no doubt where his heart lies.
"My priorities are quite clear: Test match cricket comes first and always has done," he said.
"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."
Explaining his intentions to head back to the IPL if not selected, he revealed there were both cricketing and contractual reasons to do so.
"If I wasn't picked for the squad I didn't want to hang around, dawdle and feel sorry for myself," he added.
"Number one, I wanted to do something and number two, I was contractually obliged to go back out, I had no choice."
As for the sporting benefit of the IPL, Morgan was strident.
He continued: "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.
"I felt the progress I made in the month or two out there would exceed the four games I might play in county cricket."
Morgan's selection ahead of Bopara was one of just two tricky issues for the England selectors for the summer's international curtain-raiser, and the team's first Test since their Ashes triumph.
The other was over the identity of the fourth, and probably spare, seamer in Tim Bresnan's injury-enforced absence.
Steven Finn, who played the first three Tests in Australia before being dropped, earned that call but is expected to play back-up to James Anderson, Chris Tremlett and Stuart Broad.