Opinion: There was so much more to Morkel than just his bowling

Fielder throws cricket ball in

Jonhenry Wilson pays tribute to the Morne Morkel's glittering career in this week's opinion piece. 

So Australia have come and gone and it's already time to move on to the excitement and crazy that is the Indian Premier League. The IPL is a genuine circus fuelled by crazy amounts of cash and an adoring public who somehow manage to stay engrossed with a tournament that, at best, is self-indulgent and, at worst, bloated and excessive. It's a marketer's dream and it's nothing if not manufactured.

But what we have seen over the last couple of months is that old school cricket can be just as entertaining as the newer version being driven out of India. The Australian tour of South Africa has had more drama than a carefully choreographed WWE fight. But what is so special is that the drama of the Australian tour, with its ball-tampering and name calling, the history making and cricket action has been all natural.

It has seen two of the biggest rivals in the game going at it over four Tests, with each match yielding a result and with plenty of good things to write about. The saddest part of the tour has been the fact that peripheral events have detracted from the actual cricket and that so many comment-worthy moments have been glossed over due to the furore of the sandpaper and the subsequent cover-up.

So let's pause for a moment and take a minute to reflect on a moment that hasn't received close to the appropriate amount of attention that it should have – the retirement from international cricket of Morne Morkel. It was Morkel who was bowling when the final Test was brought to an end with a run-out, meaning it didn't quite end with the fairytale he deserved, another wicket next to his name -  but then that's almost the story of his career, always there in the background doing the hard work, not always getting the credit he deserved.

A lot has changed since Morkel made his debut for South Africa against India in Durban in 2006. It was a side that featured Andre Nel and Makhaya Ntini as opening bowlers with support from Shaun Pollock and Andrew Hall. Herschelle Gibbs was still playing, as were Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher. AB De Villiers was opening the batting with Graeme Smith. It was a positive start for Morkel, who ended the match with a batting average of 58 and three Test wickets to his name – his first scalp that of Indian legend Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Not surprisingly his batting average was on a downward trajectory from that point on, but that's not why Morkel was in the team. Ask around and many will tell you that it wasn't even his bowling that saw him feature so consistently for South Africa over the next 12 years. Well yes, his bowling was critical, but the point is that Morkel was so much more than just his bowling. He was also more than a towering presence and a man who could put fear into the heart of opposition batsmen with his steepling bounce.

Morkel was a genuine team player. It's no coincidence that players like Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander have been able to grab the headlines over the years, with the often unsung Morkel acting as the foil from the other end. And in an era when professional sport is more of a circus than a surgery, players like Morkel are increasing rarities.

That he played Test cricket for 12 years and finished his career with more than 300 wickets is an amazing achievement. That his captain chose to pay tribute to him by not mentioning these facts speaks even greater volumes. When pressed for comment after the final game, skipper Faf du Plessis said, "He's been a special player, he's one of the nicest guys in cricket. When times are tough, Morne is a nice guy to have around.”

Enjoy your retirement, Morne. Thanks for the memories.

The views expressed above are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Hollywoodbets.

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Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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