Morkel finds his happy place as career winds down
There is never, ever any love lost in a local derby. But tomorrow’s Lions-Sharks clash at Ellis Park will have even more bite than usual because it’s Super Rugby quarter-final time. says the Lions will win. says the Sharks will win. Here’s why …
MIGHT MORNE Morkel call time on his international career after South Africa’s tour of England is over?
Morkel is stating the obvious when he says his international career is closer to the end than the beginning, but by adding it “is nearly finished,” there’s a sense he’s thought about calling time on life as an international cricketer.
He’ll be 33 in October, has played 76 Test as part of a career that’s spanned 11 years and although he admits he’s physically in good shape, thoughts have turned to life beyond cricket. “I’m going to enjoy now. And see how far we go. I don’t know,” he said. “After this tour we’ll see.” Morkel wants to meet with Cricket South Africa to discuss his future. He says he’s not sure if he wants to focus on just one format and he needs to know if he’s part of the plans for the 2019 World Cup.
A large part of those discussions will be determined by whoever the national team’s new coach is, a decision that will be taken at Cricket SA’s board meeting today.
“I’ve been blessed, I’m very flexible. My suppleness and my conditioning’s been good over the years, I really look after my body, mentally and physically I feel strong, (the World Cup) is two years down the line, it’s decision they (CSA) need to make, I’ll focus on this year and see how we go from there.”
Morkel was arguably South Africa’s best bowler at the recent ICC Champions Trophy, bowling more consistently than perhaps his reputation suggests. His aggression provided One-Day captain AB de Villiers with an important attacking option.
The drive and focus with which he operated in that tournament has been carried through to this Test series and Morkel has worn a steely look at training and during play. Dean Elgar reckoned it was because he’s no longer in Dale Steyn’s shadow and because he’s needed to step to the fore as a leader.
Morkel was in a reflective mood after Trent Bridge, recalling how as a 19-year-old, playing club cricket for Endon CC in the Nottinghamshire leagues, he’d taken a Saturday off to come and watch the Proteas play in 2003. “To play (at Trent Bridge) and to win a Test match there now is what dreams are made of.
“Every time I get the ball I really just want to enjoy the moment and express myself. In the past I put myself under a lot of pressure, but those days are gone. I know how quickly a career can change … for me it’s just to go out there in every spell and give it my best
“I know what to expect here, it’s important as a senior player to stand up. We don’t have the luxury of a guy like Dale Steyn so it’s important for me to try and lead the attack ... although we have a lot of individual leaders. KG’s done so well when he’s got the ball in hand, Vern’s done exceptionally well.”
Morkel was very much in the spotlight after South Africa’s defeat at Lord’s where, despite some good spells of bowling, the no-balls and the poor strategy against England’s tail-enders proved costly.
“It’s important to have personal reflection; you need to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself all the questions … ‘did we lose the Test or did they really beat us?’ The sort of cricket we played there at times was that of a team that hasn’t played Test cricket for a while,” remarked Morkel. “I felt, bar one or two overs, that my rhythm was quite good during the Lord’s Test. I knew if I bowled a few extra overs with the red ball – to get into the disciplines of Test cricket – I’d be better in time.
South Africa didn’t bowl a single no-ball at Trent Bridge and while Morkel only claimed two wickets in the match his combination with Vernon Philander, especially against England’s left-hand top order trio, was devastating.
The pressure he created through some lengthy spells allowed the rest of the attack to flourish.
“I’m a massive fan of (playing four fast bowlers), it gives you the opportunity to bowl longer spells. There’s nonstop pressure on the batters.”
That enthusiasm is encouraging, but it’s an indication of a player that wants to have no regrets when his international career is over – which may be closer than many people think.