“So ja, when they named the squad (on April 18), I wasn’t disappointed or feel let down, the writing was on the wall for me already,” Morris said from India on Friday.
Morris, like all the nationally contracted players, met with the selectors back in January to gain clarity about where he fitted in as far as the World Cup was concerned.
“I wanted clarity and they were very honest. I was quite disappointed with what was said, and I certainly didn’t see it that way. But I was glad we had that chat, I didn’t want the World Cup to hang over me all season, and it freed me up to give my best for the Titans.
“I got a lot of messages on the day the squad was announced with people telling me I was unlucky, but I didn’t see it that way; I hadn’t played an ODI for more than a year, it was clear I wasn’t in the plans. I’d got over my disappointment about the World Cup in January already.” And then came a call on Tuesday. “To be honest, it’s bittersweet. I just feel broken for Anrich (Nortjé). In a way, you feel bad, because of the way he’s bowled, the pace, and for his World Cup dreams to be ended like this is just horrible,” he said.
Morris and Nortjé, who broke his thumb while training in Port Elizabeth on Monday, swapped messages. “I told him how sorry I was, and he wished me luck. I know that besides playing this World Cup for SA, I’ll also be playing for him. I told him I’d do my best for him.”
Morris will join the South African squad for their training camp in Cape Town from Monday and while Ottis Gibson and Faf du Plessis have at various stages in the last 18 months expressed concern about his inconsistency, he doesn't believe he has anything to prove to that pair about his readiness for the Cup
“I don’t see there being a need for me to talk to them. We all understood each other, it was clear to me what they wanted and where I stood in the pecking order. I wanted that clarity back in January and everyone was honest. They had a particular direction they wanted to take, and it doesn’t matter whether I agree or not. There is no animosity, I just wanted it out the way early so that it didn’t affect how I play.”
Morris has still been part of the Proteas T20 plans, featuring in the series with Sri Lanka in March. But his last ODI was against India in February last year.
Gibson publicly expressed his unhappiness about Morris’ fitness, but the 32-year-old all-rounder proved last summer that his body - besides a few normal ‘fast bowler’ niggles - was fine, as he played across all three formats for the Titans and in the Mzansi Super League.
In the last few weeks he’s performed adequately for the Delhi Capitals in the IPL, taking 13 wickets in nine matches - the second highest for the franchise behind Kagiso Rabada, who’s picked up 25. One noteworthy aspect of his bowling is that 10 of his wickets have come at ‘the death’ with espncricinfo data analysis showing his economy rate in that period is 8.7. “I’m happy how I’ve been landing my yorkers - except that one beamer (to MS Dhoni) probably the best beamer I’ve ever bowled - and I’m happy with where my skill level is at.
“It’s the IPL and there are some great batsmen and ‘finishers’ here so you are going to travel, you just need to understand that.”
He’s batting has not given him as much pleasure. “I’m not happy. I got a couple of first ballers and I haven’t faced enough deliveries, but that’s the nature of the game, I’ll just be spending more time in the nets.”
Being with Delhi as they’ve made a run to the play-offs in the IPL has also afforded Morris the opportunity to work with the franchise’s coach, former Australia skipper, Ricky Ponting, who was part of three teams that won the World Cup. “I’ve been amazed by his positivity. Win or lose he’s also so positive. He’ll kak you out from a dizzy height, but he’ll always emphasise the positive.
“He knows what your best is and he doesn’t want you to out-perform anyone else, just do your best. He is a fountain of knowledge, and if you don’t feed off that positivity, then there is something wrong with you."
Once the IPL ends, all attention switches to the World Cup and Morris is looking forward to seeing some old mates when he lands in Cape Town, specifically Rassie van der Dussen and Dwaine Pretorius. “It'll be quite special to play a World Cup alongside those guys. Dwaine, Rassie and I have come a long way together, from the lift club during our Lions days and we used to talk about one day hopefully playing together for South Africa, and now we get to do it at a World Cup!"