Antoinette Muller

Morkel 'it's our time'...

2013-06-05 12:09
Sport24 columnist Antoinette Muller (File)

The last time the Champions Trophy took place, in 2009 in South Africa, Morne Morkel was unlucky to miss out on a place in the squad. He’s part of the side this team though and ahead of South Africa’s opening clash against India on Thursday, he hopes the tournament can be fruitful for the Proteas.

“I'm really looking forward to it. We had a nice week in Amsterdam and the boys are fresh after taking it a bit easy. It was nice to be back with the group and back in this environment. I hope and believe it's our time and it's just a matter of going out there and enjoying it as much as possible. If we can be the last team to win it, it will be great,” Morkel told Sport24.

One day cricket has become somewhat of a problem middle child, needing constant rehabilitation and fiddling to ensure it stays exciting, and with Test cricket being the pinnacle of the game and the gimme-gimme appetite for T20 cricket only increasing, one-day cricket can become somewhat stale, but Morkel believes that there’s still a place for it.

“Every year the rules are changed and makes it more challenging. For me to win a World Cup or to play in a World Cup is important to be involved in events like this one, is exciting,” Morkel added.

The rules for the format were changed again in January, bowlers are allowed two bouncers an over and start with two new balls up front, all while only four fielders are allowed outside the 30 yard circle at any given time. The impact those fielding restrictions have been heavily debated  and it makes it much more difficult for bowlers to restrict batsmen, especially with seemingly batsmen friendly conditions all across the world.

“The margin for error is so much smaller with those kinds of rules. Even with the two bouncers, players are so good these days and the wickets are quite good too, so short balls can take the batsmen's feet away, but it can just as easily go for runs. I feel a bit sorry for the spin bowlers, but we have to deal with it,” said Morkel.

South Africa’s pace attack, in Test cricket at least, has become one of the most revered and while the one-day bowlers still have a long way to go, Morkel and Steyn share over 200 scalps in just over 130 matches between them. There’s something special  about the attack and Morel says it’s simply down to understanding and supporting each other when they step onto the field. South Africa have had their fair share of mental implosions in the past, but that’s seemingly changing, in the Test arena at least and the Champions Trophy is another chance to prove that they’ve overcome the demons from choking past and moved forward. Morkel doesn’t think there’s anything specific which sets him and his compatriots aside from the rest of the world, it’s all just good old fashioned hard work.

"I'm not sure if we're that different form anyone else. It's tricky for any bowler with the new rules, but like anybody else, you'll have your day. We try to help each other as much as possible from both ends and especially when it gets tricky towards the end,” Morkel said.

Paddy Upton, Gary Kirsten and Russell Domingo have been instrumental in focusing on the players getting their mindsets right and Kirsten sees himself more as a mentor rather than a coach. Making sure that the team environment flourishes is something which the outgoing coach has really worked hard on.

Admittedly, though, Morkel says the side does spend hours to try and get their game plans in place, especially with the new ODI rules. Host nation England have suffered dreadfully against New Zealand, having just lost a series against them as their bowling attack looked rather thin without the prowess of Stuart Broad or Seven Finn and Morkel says he does feel sorry for his fellow pace aces.

“I feel sorry for the fast bowlers around the world. We sit endless hours at night trying to work on different plans, but if you're bowling to somebody like AB de Villiers who can score all around the ground things get pretty difficult. We have to understand that bad days happen and you have pick yourself up and carry on,” Morkel added.

The ICC have opted to do away with the tournament, in favour of a Test Championship,  and while it’s highly unlikely that the tournament will be remembered beyond July when England begin a back-to-back Ashes series, South Africa have a real chance to  set the foundation for a legacy in the shorter format of the game. They’ve come miles in the Test format, but haven’t quite clicked in the shorter format of the game. Tactics, exploiting the seam-friendly conditions and coming together as a unit will be key for the Proteas. They might not win the tournament, but with such a delicate mix of veterans and rookies, they might very well put on one heck of a memorable show.

Antoinette Muller is a freelance writer who writes mainly about soccer and cricket for The Daily Maverick or anybody else who will have her...

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Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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