September 29, 2012

South African cricket

Why isn't Albie's potential being maximised?

Aashish Pattani
Albie Morkel launches the ball for six, New Zealand v South Africa, 3rd ODI, Auckland, March 3, 2012
Albie Morkel hasn't had enough opportunities with the bat in T20 internationals  © Getty Images
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South Africa's use of the world's most experienced Twenty20 cricketer continues to baffle. Amid the third consecutive thrilling climax of the World T20, Albie Morkel cut a forlorn figure in field. Brought back into the attack in favour of Johan Botha and JP Duminy - who had conceded 15 runs from a combined four overs - Albie conceded 20 in seven balls to Umar Gul and Umar Akmal that allowed Pakistan back into a contest they went on to claim.

Albie's contribution to the match - two overs for 26 runs, 9 off 6 with the bat, and a catch in the deep - hinted at a man who had not been an influential figure in the game. But sadly, it has too often been the case for someone who is the world's first to reach 200 T20 appearances. Albie is also the second-most capped South African T20I player (he has played 41 games, only one fewer than his captain AB de Villiers). And yet, his near omnipresence on the team-sheet has been counterbalanced with near indifference when it comes to match contributions.

In T20Is, he has been Man of the Match just twice - far less than similar players in other sides. By contrast, Shane Watson and Shahid Afridi have both picked up seven such awards. But it's not his fault. Much of his lack of impact is due, arguably, to the South African management's insistence to hold him back from the action. Their use of Albie the batsman is puzzling. Here's a man who has the highest strike-rate (142.33) of any South African to play more than 15 matches, and has cleared the ropes 151 times in T20s - 53 more than the next best in the squad (JP Duminy). And yet, he has faced a mere 359 balls in 41 games. That is, on an average, around nine balls per game. Rarely has he been given the opportunity to spend time at the crease. On only four occasions has he faced more than three overs.

And despite performing admirably when he has - passing 35 on each occasion - he's too often been forced to wallow lower down the order. His strike-rate has actually declined the lower he has come in, falling from over 160 batting at No.5, to below 130 batting at No.8.

Given this history it was a shame - but by no means a surprise - to see him walk to the crease with just 2.4 overs remaining in the South African innings against Pakistan. But for all South Africa's talk of using Albie as an impact player, it is hard to argue that leaving him so late - behind even Farhaan Behardien, who is statistically inferior to Albie in every aspect of batting - was in the best interests of the team.

Albie the bowler has proved no less frustrating. Given his bowling pedigree outside the international stage, possessing an economy rate hovering around 8, it is not surprising that his opportunities have been limited with the ball. But he has bowled just 92 overs in his T20I career.

He's also bowled more balls (551) than he has faced (359), despite having poorer returns as a bowler (economy 7.99) than as a batsman (strike rate 142.33). But as a bowler, he's only completed his full quota nine times.

On most occasions he has been asked to bowl two overs or less of his quota, and hasn't picked up more than a couple of wickets in an innings. Outwardly, Albie doesn't seem too fazed. Now into his 30s, evidently personally and financially secure as a cricketer, he rarely appears agitated at his lack of opportunities for his national team. Indeed, the fact that he has been such a regular selection for the South African team would provide him comfort that the management is at least cognizant of his abilities as a cricketer. But in the interest of getting the most out of his talent for the benefit of the team, the management must let him face more balls. Hashim Amla faced many more than that (529) in a single innings against England just a couple of months ago.

Given South Africa have suppressed Albie's impact for song long, it is unlikely they will change track. So even if they lift their first global trophy next Sunday in Colombo, we can fully expect Albie to pick up his medal despite being no more than a bit-part player.

Keywords: Selection

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Sri on (October 4, 2012, 7:59 GMT)

Under Smith, Saffers choked. Under AB, they never choke. They just surrender. Some improvement that.

Posted by Alif on (October 4, 2012, 6:23 GMT)

South Africa Should definitly have a left and right hand combination to open the innings..Otherwise All team will trouble them with left arm spinners....Thats Happened in Pak & Aus Game.And Albie Morkel in T20 Games always a better option to open, He has a great ability to Strike the ball and by far better hitter than existing south africans player..And why bahardien in the team man..If you want to have a rescue man in the team if wicket falls quickly why not put Kallis in number 6 batting position in T20's ..No one is better than him tecnically and In T20 his strike rate is not helping upfront. De villiers should batting higher . Number 3 in T20's more fruitfull for the team...And Albie Morkels talent should be utilized properly.that will bring more good results for them surely.In T20's there should be no waiting game untill 3 or 4 wickets fall early...If such a bad day came Kallis is there .Put him in number 6 batting position..

Posted by Amanraj Verma on (October 3, 2012, 20:36 GMT)

If you look at the current SA batting line up one would probably say that the only place where albie could possibly fit in is that of opener ..but i don't really think,mainly b'coz of new ball ..and may be teams would open with off spinners against him then...there has always been an issue with the no7 batsmen across the world and a lot of debate has also been there about their talent been misused a remember the case with Yosuf Pathan of Indian as well..but the point is you need to have a no7 who consumes least amount of deliveries to get his eye in and should be ready to smack sixes from the word go..and Albie is certainly the one...ro add more to this i would say may be while setting up the target SA can promote him to a no 3 or no 4 position but while chasing no7 is the place he needs to be..

Posted by Trev Johnson on (October 2, 2012, 21:37 GMT)

Excellent article Ash, unfortunately Albie is a cricketing enigma and probably always will be, not being given the chance to fulfil his true potential. Keep up the good work.

Posted by Aditya Mookerjee on (October 1, 2012, 1:28 GMT)

When Mike Procter played, Albie wouldn't have been considered as a T-20, or One Day cricketer, people might have asked, should he be in the Test eleven? I think, he most definitely should have been. What is unusual is, in the times of Procter, there were players like Procter, and also the two Mr. Pollocks, who were supposed to be models of how to bat and bowl. I can't seem to spell the first name of G. Pollock. I don't know for certain, but if you can beat Ian Chappell's team in a test series, then the team should retire, and that is what happened. The West Indian team should also have retired, for some time, or perhaps not.

Posted by sailesh dontula on (September 30, 2012, 17:52 GMT)

The thing that strikes my mind is Albie clearing the ground so easily. I couldnt understand why the south african management is not utilising one of the big hitters in an effective manner when other T20 franchises are making most of him. He needs to be given fair amount of chances at the top of the order as they dont have a constant batting line up in T20 internationals. They could add a much valued all-rounder to their armoury which would help them to attain more heights in their future as a team. Faith should be imparted in him by team management and should back him up so that he can deliver much more and add value to the current team.

Posted by Vic on (September 30, 2012, 9:15 GMT)

Good article. I wonder why he was even brought into the attack when our spinners were doing so well.

Posted by Rizbi on (September 30, 2012, 9:01 GMT)

thnks pattani for nice topic. for winning world cup albis contribution is urgent for team

Posted by Tim on (September 30, 2012, 7:16 GMT)

Absolutely a super player..he must get chances.

Posted by lasse manson on (September 30, 2012, 7:05 GMT)

He was very influential. He made us lose.

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