OPINION - I had a lump in my throat when news broke that Standard Bank Proteas fast bowler Morne Morkel would retire from international cricket after the Sunfoil Test series against Australia.
Morkel has played more than 200 matches for South Africa across all formats of the game.
A week ago I said more than half of the Proteas regulars will retire in the next five years. Fast forward to the start of this week and Morkel had done the unexpected. His retirement came too soon. I expected it to at least come after the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup.
I remember how he was the leading wicket taker for the side and his determination led the Proteas to the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final against New Zealand. Which they lost and left South Africa’s gentle giant inconsolable.
That moment, those images, that was heart wrenching. Not only for South Africans but for his followers. It’s heartbreaking that he will not get a World Cup medal, but he leaves the Proteas with a beautiful legacy. A legacy that some cricketers can only dream of.
For 12 years Morkel has steamed in towards the bowlers end at every international cricket ground and picked up not only wickets but five-wicket hauls in both Test and One-Day International matches across the world.
At least 2 meters tall, his height worked in his favour, with extra pace and steep bounce, his opponents never knew what was headed their way.
Before his last series with the Proteas badge on his chest, Morkel has played in 83 Test matches, claimed 294 Test wickets and seven five-wicket hauls.
I am one of the many South Africans and cricket lovers who feel that Morkel was an unsung hero and terribly underrated.
Yes, he had his fair share of bowling wides and no-balls but which fast bowler didn’t?
Morkel has one of those down to earth souls. Even when he was allegedly racially abused by a fan in Hobart, Australia, during a One-Day match against the Aussies, his reaction to the incident was unexpected. One would expect a verbal altercation, but not Morkel, he was calm about it.
But on a serious note, the 33-year-old cricketer has had a prolific career and was probably lucky to be one of the few cricketers to have played for his country alongside his older brother, Albie Morkel.
What will South African cricket be without him?
I’m really going to miss him.