Morris owes his opportunity to the misfortune that struck Anrich Nortje on Monday, when he fractured his thumb while practicing in Port Elizabeth.
Nortje’s injury was described by the Proteas team manager Mohammed Moosajee as being “freakish” and will sideline the 25-year-old for up to eight weeks. It is hugely unfortunate for Nortje who burst into the public’s consciousness in last season’s Mzansi Super League, bowling with terrific pace for Cape Town Blitz. However in a portent of his season, he missed the latter half of that competition with an ankle injury that required surgery, and after he recovered from that and made his Proteas debut in the one-day international series against Sri Lanka, he picked up a shoulder injury which meant he couldn’t play in the IPL.
Now having just recovered from that, he has been sidelined with a fractured thumb and will miss the World Cup. Morris was viewed as one of the unluckiest players to miss out on World Cup selection originally. Those in his corner felt that the all-around package he provided would give the squad extra depth and versatility, but critics – which have included Proteas coach Ottis Gibson and national captain Faf du Plessis – bemoaned his inconsistency.
Morris they felt veered too wildly between either being very good or awful and they couldn’t be sure which Chris Morris would pitch up on a particular day. His “X-factor” credentials are very reminiscent of Wayne Parnell, who went to the World Cup in Australasia in 2015 and played just one game against India in which he conceded 85 runs in nine overs.
At this stage Morris, who has played 34 ODIs, would most likely be back up for the three frontline quicks; Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi, but he also provides extra cover in the all-rounder spot behind Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius.
Importantly for Morris he has played a lot of cricket this season at domestic level. Gibson has often questioned his fitness, so getting through first-class matches and limited-overs games for the Titans will have ensured he is “cricket fit”. He has played nine matches for the Delhi Capitals in the IPL, and is the team’s second-highest wicket-taker with 13 behind Rabada, who has picked up 25. He has been less successful with the bat, only scoring 32 runs in six innings, although he has only faced 37 balls.
Meanwhile, Moosajee yesterday said that Rabada needs two to three weeks to recover from a “significant lower-back” injury which he picked up while playing for the Capitals in the IPL. That time frame will make it a close call as to whether he will strap on his boots for the opening match of the World Cup between South Africa and England at The Oval on May 30. “We are hopeful that he will make a full recovery,” Moosajee said.
Rabada’s recovery is being accelerated with daily one-hour sessions in a hyperbaric chamber, which produces 90% of pure oxygen (as opposed to the 27% that people breath on a daily basis) and accelerates the creation of red blood cells.
Steyn has also been put on “very specific and progressive “return to play programme,” to aid his rehabilitation after his right shoulder flared up while he was playing in the IPL. According to Moosajee, Steyn will be reassessed when the World Cup squad gathers for a training camp in Cape Town starting on Sunday.
JP Duminy (shoulder), Tabraiz Shamsi (lower back) and Lungi Ngidi (side strain) have all made full recoveries from their ailments.