Chris Morris sat down with Gordon Parsons recently, chatted, watched video and had a “heart-to-heart” about his bowling and then decided he basically needed to stop being so “crap”.
Morris packed his bags and journeyed to Durban this morning to link up with South Africa’s T20 squad for the first clash of South Africa’s two match series against Pakistan, knowing he was a better bowler than when he played against New Zealand at the start of the year.
On that occasion he wasn’t properly fit – due to a damaged quad – and he’s had to deal with greater expectations as a result of his large IPL contract while still trying to make a name for himself at international level.
“It’s much easier now, because I know what to expect, I know some of the guys and I’m confident about my fitness and about my form,” Morris said yesterday.
When he received his first call-up towards the end of last year there were the usual nerves about meeting the “big name” players but also about the injury he picked up as part of the Highveld Lions preparation for the Momentum 1-Day cup final.
Morris only played in the first match but went off the field as a result of the injured quad. This time he returns to the national side a more confident and, most importantly, a fitter player.
“I’ve had some problems with my bowling this season in the T20 competition,” Morris admitted yesterday.
In his first two games for the Highveld Lions in the Ram Slam T20 challenge he had combined figures of 8-0-88-0, the result, explained Morris, of trying too hard to fulfil expectations he’d created in his own mind following a hefty contract given to him in the Indian Premier League.
Morris was contracted to the Chennai Super Kings for $650000 (about R5,8-million) for the IPL – an unexpectedly hefty sum that has seen him become the most scrutinised player in South African cricket.
“I guess I wanted to live up to what people thought I was worth. It was hard. I’d be fielding on the boundary and people were shouting, ‘hey Morris, can you borrow me a million,’ and there was a game where the lights went out and okes were going, ‘hey, why didn’t you pay the electricity?’ That was kind of hard to deal with.”
“I also think I expected more of myself. I was the leading wicket-taker last year and I just wanted to live up to all of that,” Morris explained.
A lengthy chat with the Highveld Lions’ bowling coach Parsons put Morris’s mind-set back on track and after those difficult first two games in the Ram Slam he’s shown the kind of form that led to him being called up for the SA A side last year and then for the senior national side earlier this summer. “I had a ‘heart-to-heart’ with Gordon before the game against the Dolphins (last Friday) and we actually watched some video of me this season.
“In those first two games I was crap, but Gordon also put in the video of last year’s game against Delhi (in the Champions League) and we spoke about how clear my mind was and how well I bowled in that game.”
Morris took 2/7 in the semi-final of the Champions League semi-final against the Delhi Daredevils at Kingsmead last October, figures that were instrumental in the Lions’ surprising triumph.
Clearly re-watching the video proved instrumental because in last Friday’s T20 match against the Dolphins at Kingsmead, Morris finished with 2/14. Two days later against the Warriors in Potchefstroom he claimed 2/30, suggesting he was back to the kind of form that made him the leading wicket-taker in the domestic T20 competition last season.
“It was a case of going back to what worked for me,” said Morris. “To forget about the IPL and to concentrating solely on the Lions. I wanted to play well for the Lions, that’s happened, and now I want to play well for South Africa.”