Albie Morkel expects Proteas to put up a fight in India ODIs

Albie Morkel is confident that under the guidance of coach Mark Boucher, South Africa will put up a tough fight in the upcoming ODI series against India.

Albie Morkel is now in Mumbai as part of the South Africa Legends side.   -  Shayan Acharya

Former South Africa bowling all-rounder, Albie Morkel, predicts a 2-1 victory in favour of India, as it gears up to host South Africa in a three-match ODI series starting Thursday. However, Morkel is confident that under the guidance of coach Mark Boucher, South Africa will put up a tough fight.

Read: Boucher: Faf’s experience in Indian conditions will help team  

Speaking to Sportstar on the sidelines of the UnAcademy Road Safety World Series -- where he is featuring for the South Africa Legends -- Morkel made it clear that the presence of Graeme Smith (acting director of cricket) and Jacques Kallis (batting consultant), alongside Boucher will see a turnaround in South African cricket.

Q. When South Africa visited India last year, it lost the Test series. Now, as the two teams lock horns in the ODI series, what are your thoughts?

A. It was sort of a mixed summer before the new coaching staff took over. Obviously, they had a fantastic win against Australia in the One-Day series, after losing the T20 series badly. So I’m unsure. Even if a team is in top form, beating India in India is almost an impossible task. It's gonna be a tough series for them, but I do expect them to at least compete. India will win it 2-1, but South Africa should compete, especially now that they have the confidence after the series against Australia.

Having played in India in the past, what do you think are the areas South Africa needs to focus ahead of the ODI series?

If you look at the conditions that we played in the last (couple of) times, they were serious turning tracks. Even the Indian players struggled on that, and in the Test series, the Indian seamers bowled us out. It was a tough tour; the team went through a bad phase as they hadn’t won any series in a while. White ball cricket is completely different. Normally, in India, the wickets are fantastic for white ball cricket. The fields are small, and there are high-scoring games. That suits the sort of style, we South Africans, play. That’s why, it’s gonna be a competitive series. But beating India in India is a tough task.

Despite losing the T20Is, South Africa bounced back, to win the ODI series against Australia. Do you think the Proteas will draw inspiration from that?

Definitely. We have got some young, nice, exciting guys. Our batting is coming through and there are some young fast bowlers. For them, it might take a little bit longer. International cricket is a tough place to learn your trade. So, it can also be to our advantage. If you're a youngster and you don't know actually what's going on, you just go out there and play. Whereas, as more senior players, you might feel a bit more responsibility on your shoulders, and get tied up. We've got a good mix. Faf and those guys are back; it’s unfortunate that Rabada is injured. He would have added lot to our attack. It would be interesting to see how they fare. There are three venues -- the wicket in Dharamsala will be quick, so that will suit us. In Kolkata, the conditions should be okay. Lucknow is a new ground, and is a bit unknown. But overall, it should suit our players well.

For the last few years, it has been a bumpy ride for South Africa. Now with Kallis, Boucher and Smith back in the system, how do you see things shaping up?

It’s a fantastic move by Cricket South Africa. If you have a young team, like we do at the moment, where there is not much experience, you need an experienced coaching staff. That’s what Boucher, Kallis and Smith would get us -- they could bring about a change. They bring in that hard attitude, which you need in a changing room. That will be good for the younger players. They can learn so  much from them -- Boucher, Kallis, who played international cricket until recently. Who better than having guys like Kallis in the changing room!

It’s a very positive move and I can only see the team grow under those guys. We could still produce top quality players, and those guys will make sure they are hard enough for international cricket.

What do you think went wrong for South Africa over the last few years?

One factor is that we lost six-seven senior players in a row. (Dale) Steyn got injured, but he anyway doesn’t play Test cricket anymore. (Hashim) Amla’s gone, my brother (Morne Morkel) is gone, JP (Duminy) is gone, there is no AB (de Villiers) either… So it’s impossible to replace these guys at once.

Secondly, Kolpak system sort of drained our next-in-line players. Over 60-70 South African players are in England and that certainly makes our pool of players quite smaller. The guys who never thought they will get opportunities, now suddenly have ten opportunities to come through. It’s a matter of fact that the guys weren’t ready. Most of the guys are now learning their trade, while playing international cricket.

Take a case like Anrich Nortje. He is a very good bowler, but he’s just played one or two seasons of domestic cricket. He is going to learn his trade in international cricket. It’s same with Janneman Malan. They are good enough, but they need a few improvements. It might take a little longer, but in the longer run, they are going to put us in good stead.

How much of an impact will Smith have in South African cricket?

I don’t know how much involved he will be with the team itself. He is the Director of Cricket. So, he will look more after the structures and work with the coaches. Now, to have him in the structures is a good thing. As a captain, he was a guy who led from the front and his team structures were some of the best we played under. If he can replicate that into Cricket South Africa’s feeder system, I think he is the man for the job.

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