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,”
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
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