Sport24 bats with Albie

2009-04-29 08:11

Part Two

GALLERY: Sport24 meets Albie Morkel

Greetings again: I’m Albie Morkel’s bat, thoroughly acclimatised now to the “extra cover” I’m getting by way of the handsome sticker on me confirming his sponsorship by that illustrious website during his campaign for the Chennai Super Kings.

Albie made a good point while chatting to some of the Sport24 staffers a few days ago, when we were in Cape Town for an Indian Premier League match against the Kolkata Knight Riders that didn’t take place. (Billions of blistering willow barnacles … there’s nothing a blade hates more than staying sheathed in the dressing room thanks to the fickle Cape weather!)

He said he was champing at the bit for that game because we both admit we’ve been bickering a tad – just not quite clicking yet as a big-hitting combination, if you like, in the IPL.

Mind you, my partner’s not really had great “middle” opportunity, tending to come in with no more than a handful of overs left in the Super Kings’ matches thus far.

Maybe we’ve both been secretly yearning, too, for the tournament’s migration up-country, where conditions ought to be a bit less damp and bowler-friendly: Albie knows there’s a better chance of his famous sixes sailing further in the thin highveld air, and I can’t wait to provide him with that sweet spot!

He’s also beginning to feel fresher again after the series against Australia – he found it unique having to change gear to T20 cricket within 24 hours of what he rightly called a “mentally challenging” five-match ODI duel against the Aussies.

Ideally, Albie would have liked a week’s fishing break or something similar after that series, to get away from it all and refocus: instead he reported for IPL duty the very next day. But hey, he admits it’s not an ideal world.

He’s also not one for excuses, but I can tell you exclusively that my partner isn’t quite firing on all cylinders fitness-wise – he strained some ankle ligaments against Bangalore Royal Challengers.

He’s baffled as to exactly how it happened; he just told me he suddenly felt a burning sensation after bowling a ball.

There’s no real recovery time during the IPL, so he’s biting the bullet and playing through it – luckily a scan showed it’s not too serious.

He was assured it can’t really get worse by bowling on it; it’s just about managing it well, doing his exercises and taking the anti-inflammatories.

Speaking of “time”, Albie made sure he registered as a voter for the South African general election, but he’d been led to believe initially that he could only vote in the constituency he’d registered in – the rules were changed at the last minute but he didn’t have his ID book with him on his IPL travels, come election day itself, which was a pity.

So he promised me he wouldn’t complain about the way the country is governed for the next few years!

Albie’s as frustrated as I am that he’s seeing the ball quite well at the crease, but just not quite delivering the scores he wants to.

A case in point was that tight match against Delhi Daredevils in Durban, which we lost by nine runs: he finished 13 not out off 14 balls.

For no special reason, Albie just wasn’t getting it off the square.

That said, seasoned guys like Ashish Nehra and Dan Vettori had obviously done their homework on him, keeping the ball close to his body and not allowing him much opportunity to get me underneath it for the big hoist. Dang and blast!

Albie assures me he loves the responsibility and the pressure of trying to be the match-winner -- even if, when you don’t come off, there’s the danger you’ll be branded as the villain by some people.

He was quick to remind the Super Kings’ brains trust that his hand is always up as a volunteer for the role of finisher … sometimes it just takes one crisp clearing of the ropes for a batsman to feel a million dollars again.

Not to mention his bat, of course …

*Albie’s bat was talking to Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing. Watch out for Part Three next week …