'Nervous' Morris comprehends unexpected call-up
Chris Morris arrived in England for the Champions Trophy "with nothing." The allrounder left his entire IPL kit in the Chennai Super Kings dressing room, including his bowling spikes because he was set to get a new pair from a different sponsor mid-month. He didn't expect to need them before then.
His only plan for June was to enjoy weekends away and down time after seven gruelling weeks at the IPL. Not a chance. Morris managed ten peaceful days at home before he was summoned to travel to the UK via Frankfurt sans cricket shoes to join up with the South African squad. He spent his first few hours in Birmingham sorting out a new pair.
"I don't wear my shoes very hard so any kind will do. I've just got to cut a hole in the front and then I'm good to go," Morris told ESPNcricinfo when he took a breather from South Africa's Saturday morning training session at Edgbaston. He had only joined the squad that morning but had already "had a bit of a bowl just to see how I go," despite feeling, "quite tired."
Being in dreamland suits Morris fine for now especially as an ODI debut is around the next sunrise. "It all still feels quite surreal. I can't quite believe I'm here but I'm really looking forward to it. I keep saying that to everyone but it's true. I'm just really looking forward to playing."
Morris has played two Twenty20s for South Africa and has been drafted into their A side for matches against Australia A and India A later in the winter. After an impressive IPL showing for Super Kings he jumped to the front of the queue as far as South Africa's next cap was concerned. But he did not expect to get it so soon.
When Morne Morkel left the field injured against India in South Africa's Champions Trophy opener, Morris was playing a round of golf. His father, Willie, a former provincial player himself, was watching the game on television and immediately rang his son. "He told me what happened and said maybe I should get myself ready," Morris said. "But I told him to calm down and that we should just take it easy and see what happens."
At the 19th hole that evening, Morris left his mobile phone on a charger and was chatting to friends when he had a sudden urge to check it. There was a missed call from Andrew Hudson, South Africa's convenor of selectors. Returning it confirmed what Willie suspected.
"There's been a few injuries for South Africa in the lead-up and I got a lot of messages from people asking if I thought I'd make the squad when Jacques Kallis pulled out and Graeme Smith got injured. But this time it was just manic," he said. "I had to sort out everything in such a hurry that I didn't even have time to look at them all and reply."
Morris had to pack his bags and get to Johannesburg from Potchefstroom in a hurry but distance wasn't the only logistical issue. The process for South African citizens to get a UK visa involves filling out a War-and-Peace-sized-form containing personal details dating back to ones grandparents and a wait of at least five days. Even coach Gary Kirsten was surprised Morris arrived so quickly.
Luckily, Morris was among those reserves who had been instructed by CSA to get a visa beforehand but there was a twist in his tale. He lost his passport a few days before the IPL and had to get an emergency document to travel to India. His new permanent passport only just arrived in time to get vetted by the British border authorities. In a small moment of panic, Morris wasn't sure he had the right one as he raced to the airport.
Once there he had some time for reflection and it dawned on him that he was about to become and international one-day player. In an ideal world, Kirsten admitted he would not want Morris to play in what is effectively a must-win game having only arrived in the country two days before the match but injuries have left him with no choice.
Morris will probably play and he may even open the bowling if Steyn does not recover in time. Kirsten will take comfort in knowing that Morris has "played competitively in the last two weeks," but does not want to put undue pressure on him to be South Africa's saviour. Still, Morris knows many of his countrymen will see him that way and it's a thought that would make anyone nervous. "I have butterflies the size of Quinny in my tummy," he said, referring to his diminutive team-mate, wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.
But he is also ready for the big occasion and he puts that confidence down to the responsibility that was thrust on him in at the IPL. "I was putting the other day and I wasn't far from the hole and one of my mates said 'No pressure,' and I just looked at him and replied, 'No man, this is not pressure, not from where I've just come from," Morris remembered. "So I'm just looking forward to it."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent