The road ahead: Morne Morkel talks cricket post pandemic

Morne Morkel, who after quitting international cricket a couple of years ago went on to feature for Surrey, speaks to Sportstar on a range of issues.

Former South Africa quick Morne Morkel believes for the bowlers, the biggest challenge, post the pandemic, will be on the field, when they try to shine the ball without using saliva.   -  AP

Cricket purists feel the game will never be the same again post the pandemic. With the International Cricket Council (ICC) suggesting a number of changes to maintain the health and hygiene of all the players and stakeholders, the game is headed towards missing out on a number of things- the celebrations, the high-fives and of course, there will be no crowd for a while.

Former South Africa quick Morne Morkel believes for the bowlers, the biggest challenge will be on the field when they try to shine the ball without using saliva. It’ll be tough, but Morkel is confident that bowlers will soon be able to take things in their stride.

Quitting international cricket a couple of years ago, Morkel went on to feature in the English County Championships for Surrey. And this time around, when there is not much clarity on the future of England’s domestic tournaments, Morkel admits ‘it’s very important to stay as professional as possible,’ in such trying times.

Speaking to Sportstar from Sydney - a city he now calls home - the pace ace opens up on a range of issues.

With the ban on the use of saliva to shine the ball, how much of a challenge will it be for the bowlers, when the action resumes?

Before we get to the bowlers, I think the biggest challenge will be on field. Old habits die hard and to constantly remind players not to use saliva is going to take someone who is very switched on during the game. Most of the bowlers nowadays have fantastic skill and are very consistent and I’m sure they will find a new way to make the ball talk.

What’s the forward then? Many people are suggesting that the pitches should be friendly.…

I personally don’t think we have to over-think this. Pitches have been good for years and bowling attacks which can create pressure and bowl well in partnerships will always pick up wickets.

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Yes, the new ball will swing and you want to look after it in the best way possible. But a big percentage of the time, overhead conditions play the biggest role when it comes to the swinging ball. And teams, nowadays, have so many different bowling combinations or options that they pick an attack based on conditions.

Some of the cricket experts feel that the shining of the ball is mainly done in the longer format and it will not have an impact on the shorter versions. What’s your take?

I agree. You do a lot more work on the ball during a Test match to keep it in the best possible condition… But I believe in winning one percent-ers on the field. And in the shorter format, it is so important to keep working on the ball. You just never know, out of nowhere, the ball will start to swing or reverse and that brings momentum back to your side.

From now on, the game will change immensely. There will be social distancing, no crowd in the stands… Could you ever imagine that such a thing will happen in cricket?

Am I dreaming? No, never and hopefully, it is not the way of the future.

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Safety Measures: Wearing protective masks, temperature checks, washing hands and social distancing are the new norms everywhere.   -  Reuters

 

We are nothing without our fans and supporters. Personally, watching a game live is the best way to learn and it also kick-starts the dream in future generations to play at the highest level. Hopefully, when life returns to normal, the supporters will have a real hunger for the game again and support will be strong.

Will the new rule make the game a bit one-sided, favouring the batsmen?

A swinging ball will always be a massive weapon. But at the end of the day, if you bowl with the right mindset and intensity you will create opportunities.

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Bio-bubble seems to be the buzzword in cricket at the moment. Do you think in international cricket, where calenders are chock-a-block, it is a sustainable model?

I hope, it is just a short-term model to get cricket back on the field. There is nothing better than touring a country and playing at different venues. The atmosphere and playing conditions are completely different from venue to venue which makes it very exciting.

You play for Surrey in the English County Championship. But this time, here is no clarity on county cricket…

It’s a very uncertain time indeed for everyone in the world. All athletes can do is control our own environment. It’s very important to stay as professional as possible.

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Surrey's Morne Morkel watches the ball during a Vitality T20 Blast match against Middlesex at Lord's on July 5, 2018.   -  Getty Images

 

There is no excuse not to work hard on your fitness or to keep on finding small ways to improve your wellness and game. We have the responsibility of making smart decisions daily.

There are many players, who have left their international teams to play in UK, courtesy the Kolpak. Will life be challenging for them now?

Unfortunately, this is the last year of Kolpak deals. It gave a lot of players who love the game a lifeline and some took the opportunity and became superstars, which is great for the game.

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Playing as an overseas will still be an option, so if players put in the hard yards and play match-winning cricket, any team in the world will have you.

Let’s talk a bit about South African cricket. How do you see the Proteas fast bowling department now? Has it moved up or gone down from where you had left?

In terms of experience, they are still a bit raw. Dale (Steyn), Vernon (Philander) and myself played for a long time together, so to lose three bowlers over a short space of time will hurt any team.

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Honouring a hero: Morne Morkel, who called time on his international career, receives a memento from the CEO of Cricket South Africa, Thabang Moroe, on April 3, 2018, the final day of the fourth Test between South Africa and Australia at the Wanderers. This was Morkel’s final Test.   -  Getty Images

 

But I do believe, they still have a lot of quality and are more than capable of getting the job done. Game time is essential and the right environment. 

There is no clarity whether the T20 World Cup and the IPL will happen this year. Do you see the Indian Premier League happening?

IPL is one of the biggest events on the cricket calendar, hopefully they can come up with a plan to play it this year. Perhaps, just before the T20 World Cup!

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