Did you know a school teacher from Sevenoaks played a part in helping the England cricket captain lift the world cup?
by My Sevenoaks Community editor Frank Baldwin
Eoin Morgan has gone down in history as the first England captain to win the ICC Cricket World Cup after the exciting last ball drama against New Zealand recently.
One Sevenoaks resident has watched the left-handed batsmen’s progress from a talented schoolboy to a national sports hero with more than a passing interest as he played an important part in helping Eoin, who was brought up in Ireland, secure a place at an English School.
Mike Williams retired from Sevenoaks School, where he taught economics and was Master-in Charge of Rugby, in 1996, but he continued to run Intoursport World Travel, the company he had launched to organise serviced tours all over the world. In his retirement year this included a rugby tour involving players from six local schools and several from Sevenoaks RFC.
Shortly after his retirement, Mike received an unexpected call from Kevin Jennings, the deputy head of the Catholic University School (CUS) in Dublin, one of the places which used the services of Intoursport.
Mike takes up the story. He said: “Kevin was a cricket fan and called me to say he had a young player at CUS who was ‘a bit special’ and very keen to play his cricket in England. The player was Eoin Morgan, and his father and Kevin were also keen for him to get into a good English school where he would get the chance to further improve his cricketing skills.
“Kevin was hoping I could help and so I agreed to put out a few feelers. I started with Sevenoaks School as I still had contacts there.”
Mike spoke to Chris Tavare, who had been a pupil at Sevenoaks School during the 70s. ‘Tav’s’ own cricketing prowess saw him forge a career as a Kent and England opening batsman and he had been invited back to the school to become Master-in-Charge of Cricket.
Mike said: “I had already previously helped secure a place at Sevenoaks School for rugby player Andy Titterrell who went on to play with the British and Irish Lions on the 2005 tour to New Zealand. But Chris was worried that bringing in an outsider to play in the established 1st eleven cricket team would not go down too well and so decided against it.
“I then tried Tonbridge and three or four other good cricketing schools around Kent but none of them were terribly interested. To be honest, I was beginning to get a bit fed up with it all when quite by chance I got a call from a friend of mine called Richard Barran, who had also taught at Sevenoaks and was involved in the organisation of the Sevenoaks Summer festival before moving on.
“He was calling to invite me to a lunch party at his London home. The guest list happened to include the headmaster of Dulwich College and I ended up sitting right opposite him. During the meal I mentioned that I was trying to find a school for Eoin and that he was a very good cricketer. The head more or less said straightaway that they would offer him a place.”
Mike called Dublin with the good news and a few weeks later found himself on his way to Heathrow Airport to pick up the 15-year-old Eoin Morgan. Mike said: “I took him to his boarding house at Dulwich College and helped him settle in. It was agreed that if anything happened to him while he was at Dulwich, my wife Rose and I would be his surrogate parents and would go and help. Fortunately, he never required our assistance.
“Even then, Eoin was an extremely self-confident young boy and he was happy enough to make his own decisions on what he needed to do to be a success in the future. He rarely asked people for advice in those days as he seemed to have a way of sorting everything out in his own head.
“You can see this in his captaincy and several reports in the newspapers before that world cup final match said that all the England players were united in their belief that he was the best man for the job.”
After his spell at Dulwich College, Eoin Morgan went on to play his county cricket for Middlesex where, coincidentally, Paul Downton, another former England cricketer who went to Sevenoaks School, spent part of his career.
Eoin played for Ireland until 2009 but his English mother meant he was able to switch allegiances to the England set up and he was later appointed the captain for limited over matches.
When Eoin was still a pupil at Dulwich, Chris Tavare was able to witness first-hand the young batsman’s skill when he hit a quick-fire century while playing for a London School’s side against Sevenoaks School. One can only wonder if he regretted the decision not to take a chance on the 15-year-old Irish boy.
* A Sevenoaks woman was also one of the founders of the Women’s Cricket Association in England – and invited the Australian team to play in her garden. You can read the full story by CLICKING HERE