Twenty20 World Cup is last-chance saloon for Albie Morkel

2012-09-14 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s batting paradigm shift has seen the country depend less on all-rounders than it did when it first returned to the international fold. However, that does not mask Albie Morkel’s shortcomings on the international stage.

Just like its rugby folk, South Africa’s cricket fans can be very unforgiving. Morkel’s inability to step up to the big time is a frustration that eats at the fabric of cricket lovers who love to see the ball in orbit. Morkel has had a very tough act to follow, but it is a path he needs to tread if he does not want to be put in the under-achiever group.

South Africa’s all-rounder lineage is one of royalty. Irrespective of time and era, there has always been a multiskilled cricketer who has carried the battle standard, often returning from war covered in blood and glory. Interestingly, especially in the modern era, they have seemed to carry a KwaZulu-Natal flavour, beginning with the wrong-footed Michael Proctor, the sturdy and metronomic Shaun Pollock and the quiet, yet brutal and surgically efficient, Lance Klusener.

I would be castigated if I omitted Brian McMillan from the list because of his Johannesburg origin and his successes with Western Province, but the ease at which all those names shifted from each format without having to tinker with what got them to the top was a marvel. It is still a strength some countries have yet to benefit from. Some, like England, Pakistan and New Zealand, have had their special cases, but they still pine for the one who will provide them with much-needed balance. Does the “New Botham” frenzy before Freddie Flintoff’s emergence ring a bell?

Some, like Australia and the West Indies, took turns in ascending to the throne without the services of an all-rounder, instead relying on specialist and golden-arm players to do the job. That did not and has not diminished the need for the all-rounder. Indeed, South Africa is still indebted to Jacques Kallis for providing them with the flexibility to field an extra batsman or bowler. His retirement is an abyss one does not dare stare into.

Where does the senior Morkel fit into this puzzle? Well, the time has come for him to reproduce his domestic form at an international tournament. The chances have come and gone, and he has been fingered for a suspect temperament, and fairly so. Not to judge Morkel, but I can hardly see him remedying the Proteas from the 100/5 syndrome that often plagued them back in the bad and good old days.

I hazily remember Morkel blasting the New Zealand A touring sides to all parts of the ground in the days when SuperSport still televised A tours. Seeing the ball being sent to all parts of the Wanderers, especially at the time when Klusener’s international career was in limbo, reassured me that a pretender would step up to the throne. Eight years, and all those 40 off 20 ball cameos later, the coronation has yet to take place. Granted, it is a tough position to occupy and being shifted around the order has not done Morkel any favours. But all-rounders have this innate ability to cope with whatever corner they find themselves in. They thrive on the responsibility of dragging their team out of the hole, but unfortunately, it is a trait Morkel has not shown, whether with bat, ball and even body language. He just does not give the impression that he can jackboot the opponents.

His exclusion from the World Cup side was just, but this is a final opportunity to announce himself to the international world, not with the short spurts, but rather those sustained assaults that change matches.

He is capable of them, as he showed in Australia in 2009, and now they need him to win his country an international trophy.

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