We don't know the reasons behind Eoin Morgan's decision to spurn the Indian Premier League this year. All we know for certain is that it must be different from 2013 and 2012, when he did opt to play, or even 2011—when he played in India with his England place not yet won and ended up getting the nod regardless.
It's natural to wonder whether he had a tipoff as to his chances of a Test recall, and it's admirable either way that he's recommitting himself to playing the most revered form of the game.
But whether it's Morgan who now believes he has a chance again or whether he's been dropped a hint by somebody, the message is worrying.
I would like to thank @IPL for accepting my request to withdraw from this years auction. Good luck with the tournament.— Eoin Morgan (@Eoin16) February 10, 2014
It's hard to dislike Morgan. He hits the ball hard. He finds angles others wouldn't. He invents shots no other batsman plays. He has made unchaseable targets reachable.
He fuses an easy-going nature with a hard-nosed approach and comes across as a thoroughly decent person.
For five years, through form's thick and thin, he has been an obvious name on the England team sheet in ODIs and T20s.
Not in Test cricket, though. He had a chance, and the numbers weren't good:
|Eoin Morgan's International Record|
As he scratched for form, Morgan turned from cartoon batting hero into caricature. He started to crouch impossibly low when he faced the ball, and by the time he stood back up, he was a shadow of himself.
Perhaps when your technique doesn't belong in a coaching book there's simply just that much more room for those kinks and quirks to overwhelm you.
Or perhaps the problem is there's nobody apart from you who understands the technique well enough to fix it.
His Test axe was tough but fair. Batting at No. 6, he was the least-experienced player and the weakest link. England carried him as they won matches, but when he and England failed together against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates two years ago last week, he was the man who made way.
@InnoBystander Not played in the Ashes. It actually might be enough.— Dave Tickner (@tickerscricket) February 10, 2014
Ordinarily, the only way to return to Test cricket is by sheer weight of runs, but this is something Morgan doesn't have on his side.
That's form that should reinforce and validate the axe, not the grounds for a recall.
Yes, there were plenty of runs against Australia in the recent ODI series, but that doesn't demonstrate the same skills. Mitchell Johnson cannot bowl you six short balls an over in the shorter formats.
Morgan hasn't obviously improved—England have now regressed to the point where he's a feasible selection again.
And in the wake of the past week's Kevin Pietersen news, that should be sobering.