JUST one game into the World Cup and already the knives are out for new England captain Eoin Morgan.
Elevated into the top job after selectors finally lost patience with former skipper Alastair Cook following his run of low scores in Sri Lanka late last year; Morgan will lead his side into battle against New Zealand in Wellington today on the back of scores of 0, 2, 0, 0 and 0.
But one man who is confident the Irish-born batsman will turn around his fortunes sooner rather than later is Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum.
A former teammate at the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, McCullum caught up with Morgan earlier this week and said his good friend's focus was still on the team rather than his own batting.
"He's a champion bloke and one of my better cricketing mates from around the world," McCullum said.
"He's obviously going through a bit of a tough time, but tough times don't last - tough blokes do. I'm confident at some point he'll bounce out of it."
McCullum knows all about tough times.
Thrust into the leadership after Ross Taylor was sacked two years ago, co-incidentally also after a failed tour of Sri Lanka, McCullum took 11 Test matches in charge to secure his first win.
He has taken that record to eight wins from 22 Tests.
"Over a period of time, form is important, but the hardest and most important time to lead is when you're struggling," McCullum said.
"That's when guys need to see you have it in you to think about the team, the game plan and driving the team ethos. That's the hardest time, but also the most rewarding when you come out the other side.
"Knowing 'Morgs' as I do, he will still be focusing on the team, albeit wanting to boost his own performance.
"It is tough, but that's the game we play. It brings out different traits in people. That's when you learn a lot about yourself."
Despite his form slump, McCullum still nominated Morgan as one of the danger men in today's game.
"He has an uncanny ability to hit to different areas and seize opportunities," the Black Caps skipper said. "Jos Buttler is also a dangerous player. They've got some quality at the top of the order and some bowlers who have been around a long time and have had a lot of success. They've struggled recently but they're still a dangerous proposition.
"The wickets we play on allow match winners to come into play."
NZ is expected to play the same XI for the third time in the tournament, after opening with wins against Sri Lanka and Scotland.
- with APNZ
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