Morkels 'unlucky' to miss World T20 bus
There will be no Morkels at this year's World T20. The brothers, Albie and Morne, do not feature in South Africa's World T20 squad, making it the first time in nine years and seven tournaments since the 2007 fifty-over World Cup that the family will not be represented at an ICC event.
They can consider themselves "unlucky", in the words of both captain Faf du Plessis and coach Russell Domingo, who explained the reasons for their squad being Morkel-less when it heads to India in March. Albie, who made his return to international cricket last October against India, was sacrificed for David Wiese while the selectors could not find a place for Morne among an attack that is banking on Dale Steyn's return to fitness and includes Kyle Abbott and Kagiso Rabada.
"If you look at it, Albie has done really well but David Wiese has played 90% of the games for us and Albie only played that one game. David has been bowling exceptionally well, he bowls a lot more than he bats and he is a lot more versatile as a bowler. He can bowl at the death, he can bowl in the middle, he has done really well for his IPL team and he hits the ball just as far but Albie can count himself very unlucky," du Plessis said. "The No.7 role is more a bowling allrounder's role."
Domingo put it more bluntly: "They are similar players but they are different players. Wiese is more a bowling allrounder. Albie is more a batting allrounder. We decided to go with more of a bowling allrounder."
All that is only half the story. Albie did only play one game on his comeback, when he replaced Wiese, who had fractured his hand and had to sit out the three matches against India, but in that one game, Albie's performance was with ball in hand, taking a career-best three for 12. While it's true that at international level, Albie has not had the same eye-catching returns as Wiese, his experience in an otherwise young attack may have counted for something, especially as South Africa are also without Morne.
"Morne Morkel has been an integral part of our one-day and T20s for the last couple of years and he has missed out," Domingo said. "His experience will be missed. He has been an incredible white-ball bowler for us but we can only take fifteen."
Morne fell out of South Africa's T20 plans when they started resting him for selected series. Since 2013, he has only played eight T20Is, including two at the 2014 World T20 and it seems South Africa have moved on from him, especially in terms of the type of bowlers they want in this format.
"For the first time, we've got a lot of death options which is something we didn't have in the past," du Plessis said. "If you've got Abbot, KG [Rabada], Wiese, [Chris] Morris, it gives you so many options. I think that's why we are such a strong bowling unit."
That may not mean Morne is completely forgotten. Should Steyn not come through the three T20s he is due to play against Australia in March, Morne might be the man who gets called up. "There is a bowler who has been spoken to if Dale is not fit, he will go," Domingo said. "So there is a contingency plan in place but we are pretty confident Dale will be fine. It's not for me to disclose who the bowler is."
But that still means Morne's chances are slim. Both Domingo and du Plessis seem confident Steyn will travel to the tournament, more lethal than ever. " Dale hasn't played a lot of cricket lately and I think he is going to be very hungry," du Plessis said. "He is at that stage of his career where he wants to show to the world why he is such a good bowler. I think we are going to see a great Dale during this World Cup."
According to Domingo, Steyn started bowling this week and will look to a play a club game towards the end of February but his rehabilitation is still progressing on a "day-to-day," basis.
At the other end of South Africa's XI, they have the opposite problem. Instead of absentees they have an overload with Quinton de Kock returning to bid for one of the opening berths currently occupied by Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers. When de Kock lost form mid-2015, de Villiers was promoted to the spot in an experiment and it worked. Now that de Kock has regained form, South Africa need to decide what to do with de Villiers.
Both Domingo and du Plessis want de Villiers to bat high up, preferably open. "AB will bat in the top three. He has been used as an opener, he will probably be used as an opener when we get to the event," Domingo said, which may mean Amla is the man to miss out.
"We know we have two great openers in Hashim and Quinny but also, it's really important to try and give AB a go at the top. He is one of those players that can on the day score a hundred and really take the game away from the opposition," du Plessis said. "My personal thinking is to let AB do that. He is one of the few players in the world that can do it.
"For me its really important that those first six overs in India to try and be as positive as possible. The decision becomes who is going to open with AB between Quinny and Hashim."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent