He is a left-handed batsman, bowls right-arm fast-medium, and has a reputation that he can hit the ball a long way. His name is Lance Klusener.
Unfortunately for Albie Morkel, this is who South Africans have always wanted him to be. From the moment Morkel delivered encouraging all-round performances on the domestic circuit a decade ago, he was branded the next “Zulu”.
Perhaps it’s that unique ability to clear the right leg before clearing the fence like Klusener did so successfully that burdened Morkel with this expectation. Unfortunately for Morkel and the Proteas, it has been a burden too heavy to carry for the Titans all-rounder, who is yet to fulfil his vast potential as a match-winner.
There have been fleeting performances that have provided hope that his Klusener-esque ability was beginning to surface. In Australia in 2008/09, Morkel delivered on a regular basis to help South Africa achieve their first bilateral ODI series success Down Under.
There was also a half-century in his maiden Test against the Aussies at the end of the same home summer, while he also fancied the New Zealand bowlers during the Caribbean World Twenty20 with an 18-ball 40 not out.
But for every peak, the inevitable trough followed, leading to Morkel’s international career resembling an old VW Beetle on a cold morning. It starts, but just when it’s about to run, off it goes again.
It’s only when Morkel dons the canary yellow of the Chennai Super Kings that consistency and the 30-year-old can be mentioned in the same sentence. Morkel is revered at the most successful Indian Premier League franchise, and repays their faith and huge financial investment in him through solid performances.
Morkel attributes this to the calming influence that former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming has on the Chennai squad, whom he met up withon Tuesday at Wellington’s Waterfront.
“I really enjoy working with Flem. He was a brilliant cricketer and brilliant captain, and took this to Chennai, where he is well-respected. He is such a nice confident guy and I have learnt a lot from him,” Morkel said on Tuesday.
It is this Morkel that South Africa have once again placed their trust in to occupy the crucial middle-order role in both Twenty20 and one-day cricket in the near future after he was on the sidelines for the past year through loss of form and injury.
The Black Caps will be aware of the potential danger Morkel poses, especially with New Zealand seamer Tim Southee having also been part of the Super Kings squad. Gary Kirsten emphasised at the arrival press conference that “there are no state secrets” between international teams anymore, especially with players freely mixing at the IPL.
Morkel cannot use this as an excuse, though. He is on limited time, and while Kirsten wants a power-hitter in the middle-order going forward in view of the World Twenty20 inching closer, it will depend on Morkel’s contribution during this coming three-match series against the Black Caps whether it will be his duty in Sri Lanka in September.
“I know I have a role to play, and personally, I think I can make a big impact lower down in the innings,” Morkel said.
Klusener was a long-time nemesis of the Black Caps during his playing career, winning matches off the last ball with thunderous strikes on more than one occasion. If Morkel replicates such match-winning ability on this tour, he may finally be simply Johannes Albertus Morkel.
ALBIE MORKEL’S PROTEAS
T20 CAREER V IPL CAREER
Batting: Matches 31, Runs 443, Ave 23.31, SR 142.90
Bowling: Matches 31, Wickets 18, Ave 33.77, RPO 8.03
Batting: Matches 54, Runs 674, Ave 26.96, SR 144.63
Bowling: Matches 54, Wickets 56, Ave 27.03, RPO 8.38