IOL Sport cricket writer Lungani Zama.

Nagpur may well be India’s answer to Pietermaritzburg given its limited options for team accommodation. You’re either in the plush new offering that has everyone trying to get a room, or you are stuck in a room that has seen better days.

By some twist of fate, the Proteas and India were stuck in the Fawlty Towers, while some of the disbelieving journalists were ensconced in modern minimalism, along with the very fussy commentary team.

The South African squad were resigned to some desperate measures to find some comfort, with some bowlers opting to go rustic and camp on the floor, with a mattress.

To kill time  and spend as little of it in their rooms as possible  the players had an extended team golf competition, on Playstation.

The duo of JP Duminy and one Morné Morkel were an unlikely pair, and they struggled in the early rounds, finding themselves at the bottom of the standings.

And then, and then, and then

By the time the Test came round, Morkel and Duminy had performed their own “Miracle at Medinah”, with a fairytale finish to steal the trophy.

As the media watched them head out for the final training session before the Test, little and large were dancing away before fielding practice.

“Started at the bottom, now we’re here,” Morkel rapped, oblivious to the different directions his unruly limbs were flying.

He kept up the song for most of the practice, to the annoyance of team-mates he had pipped to the post.

Everyone seems to have a Morné Morkel feel-good story, and they have all brought them out in this, his final week playing at the highest level.

Playing with kids in the parking lot; check. Practical joker and choirmaster in the team; check. The most serious tail-ender in the world about his batting; check.

Even opposing batsmen, who used to hate seeing the gentle giraffe looming ever larger against the sight screen, the red Kookaburra looking like a marble in his mitts.

They have happily admitted to how much they hated facing him, which was compounded by how mildly mannered he was about the whole thing.

Morkel has been that rare breed, a good guy in a sport often inclined towards the bad and the unseemly. He has played a straight bat to all he encountered, and the game has embraced him for it.

For 12 years he has been a cricketing slave for South Africa; doing the donkey-work, softening up batsmen, running up the hill or into the wind.

He never complained, never compared, and he never craved the spotlight. Ironically, when he did grab the back pages at Newlands last weekend, a scandal in the same game hijacked the front pages.

Morne Morkel kisses his Proteas badge after his stunning performance at Newlands against Australia in the third Test. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Morkel was named man of a tainted match, but he had his family, friends and hunting partner Dale Steyn in tow.

He had his moment in the sun, and he marked it with a match analysis that emphasised the fact that an old dog can learn new tricks.

The fuller, straighter Morkel of the last three years has been a revelation, and he has been more dangerous and more productive  than at any other stage in his career.

He has bowled better than ever, and he has left the stage with the audience asking for more. That is a trick in itself.

Go well, “Haydos”.


Sunday Tribune

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