Morne Morkel – A Gentle Giant

While Cricket fans were making speculations regarding the return of Dale Steyn, they got another shocker when Morne Morkel, Steyn’s bowling partner and one of South Africa’s finest announced his retirement after Australian series. Caught at Point analysis the career of a fast bowler who has been one of the leading factors for South Africa ‘s impressive record during the period.

 At last, the 6 and a half foot of a perennial figure won’t be seen donning South African colours when proteas will tour Sri Lanka in July this year. Famous as a gentle giant among his teammates and fans Morne Morkel, the towering South African pacer has decided to move on after South African series. While at 33 you would think that Morkel’s decision is a right one especially when he has multiple lucrative financial offers, which is hard to avoid with a young family. While some might say, the retirement came a year earlier as he was almost being expected to play World Cup 2019. However, those who have been following the recent news know that chances of retirement anytime was growing since England tour last year as the news regarding him getting Kolpack was circulating thick and fast. The first test against Australia is his 84th, and with 294 wickets, he sits among top wicket takers from South Africa.

How will South Africa and World Cricket remember him?

Morne Morkel’s beginning was not a great one in his debut first-class match against West Indies in 2003-04. At the age of 19, he bowled 17 no –balls and gave away 54 runs in 5 overs. After an impressive season in 2006-07, Morkel played his first test on  Boxing day in December 2006. In his earlier years, Morkel seemed to come from the motions, while he was decent but without being threatening.

In 2008 tour of England he took 15 wickets at 33.46 and helped South Africa win in England only their second test series and their first since 1935. However, a disappointing series in Australia later that year (where he took only 6 wickets in 2 tests at an average of almost 50) meant he was dropped from the team for being too inconsistent. While returning for the series in 2009-10 after nearly a year of absence, Morkel picked up 19 wickets at an average of 21. He continued the performance in 2010 when he picked 14 wickets against West Indies in the Carribean and helped South Africa to seal the series.

Since 2009 onwards he forged a partnership with Dale Steyn which helped South Africa win many series especially out of South Africa. With the addition of Vernon Philander in 2011, the trio continued to outclass batsmen. In 2010-11 against India, he wrecked a fame batting line-up consisting of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman at centurion with a figure of 5-20. This was the spell that got him recognition and tag of star bowler.

Morkel continued to perform very well but was still not at his best as he preferred to be at the throat of the batsmen all the time, making it easier to plan against him. However in 2014 when he got another lifeline due to Steyn’s injury. Morkel changed his approach and started bowling more fuller, and results started to reflect.

Morkel picked up 53 wickets at an average of 23.45 in 15 tests from July 2014 to March 2016, much higher than his career average. He was a changed man as he carried the South African attack on his shoulder in India in the absence of Steyn and Philander. Even after returning from injury he picked up 30 wickets in 7 wickets on New Zealand and England tour last year. Against India, he was at his best in test matches reaping up 13 wickets in 3 tests at a miserly average of 20. This is the reason why most people are surprised that the decision has come at a time when he has started to achieve the quality and potential everyone expected of him.

Nevertheless, he remains one of the finest South Africa has produced and might also finish with 300 wickets by the time the series with Australia is over. For almost 11 and half years he served as someone who has bowled with fire in his heart and on the pitch but as a gentle giant with words. This is the reason South Africa will miss his presence once he bids adieu in a month’s time.


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