Cape Town – It was a steamy night in the Sri Lankan capital. And the Proteas were sweating inside the R Premadasa Stadium. The Indian bowlers were piling on the pressure and besides Faf du Plessis, the South African batsmen were found wanting, eventually falling one agonising run short.
The game had been set up for the Proteas’ big “finisher” Albie Morkel to take his team home, and redeem himself for a costly over in a previous game against Pakistan.
But like at previous ICC World T20s, Morkel failed to deliver when it mattered most. This was not the Morkel the Indian bowlers knew. They are accustomed to the swash-buckling Super King who wields the willow with gay abandon at Chennai in the IPL. Instead, this was a bundle of nerves who was unsure of his gameplan.
Morkel threw his green pads into the crowd after the game. It was a realisation that he had used all his lifelines and the lengthy rope the national selectors had given him was finally being cut. The unpleasant truth was staring him in the face: his Proteas career was effectively over. That was 18 months ago.
But now two months prior to the next World T20 in Bangladesh, Morkel’s name is again being whispered within the corridors of Cricket South Africa. The Proteas have failed to fill the void of a consistent big hitter down the order since Lance Klusener’s retirement.
David Miller is currently the best the country has to offer, and in the shortest format of the game the KwaZulu-Natalian has proved to be a destructive force. But there seems to be a concern that South Africa requires another of similar ilk, especially with others like Farhaan Behardien and David Wiese not at the required level.
My understanding of the role – a batsman at Nos 7 and 8 – is that the player should also be a bowling option, along with his big-hitting exploits. Somebody who is able to deliver four overs while not conceding in excess of eight runs to the over. And it is with this reasoning that I struggle to see why Cape Cobras stalwart Justin Kemp is not a better option than Morkel.
Hold on there, before you start accusing me of pulling a Heyneke Meyer and Victor Matfield – Kemp may be 36 years old, but he is in peak physical condition. The big man has done extensive training over the past two years to be fitter than ever.
And now that you have got up from your chair due to my shock proclamation, Kemp has consistently been among the most economical limited-overs bowlers in the country for the past two seasons. His current economy rate of 5.73 runs per over is a big part of why the Cobras are contesting Sunday’s RamSlam T20 Challenge final.
I am also not forgetting the essential role of being able to launch the ball to all parts during the death overs. Kemp has admittedly had problems against quality spin, especially on the sub-continent due to his inability to rotate the strike, but he has since formulated a gameplan that works for him.
Likewise he is also extending those long arms again to strike the ball down the ground like he did during his heyday.
It is not a selection based on the future. But neither would Morkel’s be, in fact. It is a selection based on the fact that the Proteas have not won an ICC trophy since 1998. And the sooner they win one, the easier it will become to win another.
I am not saying by picking Kemp that South Africa are suddenly going to end their trophy drought. However, they are going to have a far better chance with him than going down the Albie Morkel road again.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
@ABdeVilliers17: Guys going through the paces here at the Wanderers! Good prep for the Aus series. Weather playing along nicely!
WHO TO FOLLOW
@davidwarner31: See what the Australian opener gets up to on tour in South Africa.
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