Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Albie: SA’s richest player?
Cape Town – He may not always be wanted by his country for limited-overs cricket, and many would argue that he is under-appreciated, but Albie Morkel may well be laughing all the way to the bank as South Africa’s wealthiest player in current earnings capacity.
And if that is indeed his status, the Chennai Super Kings, his long-time Indian Premier League franchise, would no doubt argue that he is worth every penny.
Unassuming, Vereeniging-born Morkel again demonstrated on Tuesday night that he counts among the very best Twenty20 “finishers” on the planet, as he played a major role in powering Chennai into a guaranteed final spot at this year’s IPL; they saw off Ray Jennings’s Bangalore Royal Challengers charges in a thrilling first qualifier at Mumbai.
There was still an awful lot to do as Morkel took to the crease at 131 for four in pursuit of a stiff 176 for victory, and only 20 balls to do it in.
But with man-of-the-match Suresh Raina (73 not out) handily on song at the other end too, his whirlwind 28 not out off just 10 balls, at a strike rate of 280 and including three sixes, saw his side over the line.
Apart from looking entirely mentally unflappable, as he so often does, Morkel has that uncanny ability to somehow get his bat beneath perfectly decent-length balls and blast them into the stands, which is the ultimate way to unnerve even the steeliest of bowlers.
It is true that he earlier took some “tap” on the bowling front – this is often viewed as his biggest drawback in Proteas terms – but bowlers are there to mostly be flogged mercilessly anyway in this format, and as long as he keeps on winning or influencing games with the blade in the fashion he does, he will stay a hugely valuable and crowd-pleasing entity.
In national and domestic contractual terms, there will be bigger South African earners than Morkel, but he is smack in the epicentre of the massively lucrative, Indian-dominated T20 landscape, playing as he does for the IPL team with the best win percentage since the tournament’s inception in 2008.
A couple of weeks shy of his 30th birthday, Morkel is sipping on the consistently heady fruits of representing CSK – remember that he has been loyal to them from the very start of the IPL, when he first fetched US$675 000 at the auction, and he was the only South African retained by any single franchise at this year’s one.
His T20 career for them alone is busy making him a lot more than “comfortable” for the rest of his life, assuming that he doesn’t fritter away his earnings on Lamborghinis and Moet (and those who know him will confirm he is hardly that type).
Bear in mind that Chennai, the defending champions anyway, are now in line again for the winning IPL prize money this year of US$1.5m (the runners-up get half that).
Even more importantly in cash terms, Morkel’s team are also assured of a place once more in the annual Champions League Twenty20 event, scheduled for India in September.
In last year’s Wanderers final, the Chennai “mean machine” beat South Africa’s Warriors by eight wickets, with Morkel very much at his post for the winners even if he wasn’t required to bat in the one-sided affair.
Three Indian IPL sides traditionally feature in the Champions League, which offers total prize money in excess of US$6m, with the winners taking home $2.5m - the biggest team booty in the game.
The brand value of the Chennai Super Kings, if Wikipedia has it right, is estimated to be around US$70m.
Yes, there are few better cricketing boots to be in than Johannes Albertus Morkel’s right now ...