Many people would describe Albie Morkel as the surprise package of South Africa’s World Twenty20 squad. The 32-year-old all-rounder is inclined to agree.
“If you’d asked me a year ago if I would be in the team today, the answer would be probably not,” the quietly-spoken Titan remarked at his hotel yesterday shortly after the Proteas flew into Durban for the second T20 against Australia at Kingsmead tomorrow.
“But after a good domestic season in South Africa where things went well for me on a personal note, I’m very happy to be back and looking forward to hopefully making a contribution to the side, on and off the field.”
After a long period away from home plying his trade in the IPL and the West Indies and England T20 competitions last year, Morkel arrived home feeling sick and tired of living out of a suitcase away from his family.
“There was no care factor. I’d lost the will to compete,” he said earlier this season.
He decided to take a three-month sabbatical, and the results have been encouraging.
“That’s the biggest thing I got out of my decision: I got my enthusiasm for the game back,” Morkel said.
He hasn’t had a sensational domestic season, but his performances have been reassuringly solid, particularly in the RamSlam T20 competition in which he smacked 16 sixes, second only to the rampant David Miller (19).
His role in the team remains what it always was, to finish games.
This time, however, the big-hitting left-hander is not a lone gun, but part of a group of aggressive hitters who include Miller, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy.
“The four of us will be looking to bat out overs 10 to 20, finishing games.”
Bangladesh will be his fifth World Twenty20.
“I don’t see my selection as proving anyone wrong,” he commented. “I don’t want to put pressure on myself. I just want to enjoy it.”
He doesn’t see his role being confined to what happens on the field. “I hope I’ve got more to offer than that,” he insisted.
“I’ve got a pretty decent record on the sub-continent, and lots of experience there playing IPL.
“Bangladesh is not much different from playing in India so hopefully I can contribute, not just in playing, but in the planning too, understanding what it’s like to play under pressure in those conditions.
“I’d like to think that I can help the younger guys too.”
Casting his eye over the squad, Morkel said he was excited about the mix of youth and experience, saying he was particularly impressed with the quality of the fielding.
“After our fielding sessions in Port Elizabeth, I must say that I’ve never played in a Proteas side with so many good fielders.
“I believe fielding will play a massive role in the tournament.
“If we can squeeze out one or two run-outs a match and pick up some good catches, it could make all the difference.”
Most of the questions at Morkel’s media interview were focused on the ICC World Twenty20, which indicates the relatively subservient status of the remaining matches in the series against Australia.
With Sunday’s opening match in Port Elizabeth being rained out, and tomorrow’s match under threat of more rain, both South Africa and Australia are struggling to build momentum before the tournament.
But at least fans in the Durban area – who have been deprived of this year’s Boxing Day Test which has been shifted to Port Elizabeth – have responded to this match with just over 17000 tickets having been sold.
Stadium manager Brett Proctor confirmed that there are just a few hundred tickets still available in the East Stand. - The Star