Sri Lanka in South Africa 2011-12 January 9, 2012

Albie Morkel says mental attitude has improved

If 2011 was the year of the debutant, Albie Morkel and Rory Kleinveldt will be hoping that 2012 is the year of the comeback men. Morkel, the South Africa pace-bowling allrounder, has played 51 ODIs and 31 Twenty20 internationals but has been out of international cricket since November 2010. Kleinveldt, also a fast-bowling allrounder, has played just two Twenty20 internationals for South Africa but was in and out of the squad till 2010, after which he was not part of the national team's plans until now. Both are in the squad for the five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka. Morkel said he had a better mental attitude now than he did in 2010.

"I've gone back and forth for various reasons, whether it was injury or loss of form," he said. "Your mental attitude is the most important thing. You can lose your place and just give up or decide to play somewhere else. But I knew when I was dropped that I was a good senior player at the Titans and if I performed I'd get noticed. I am probably the same player I was before I got dropped but have a better mental attitude, and that's the most important thing you can bring to the team."

Morkel was left out of the 2011 World Cup squad, with South Africa deciding to go to the subcontinent without a big-hitting allrounder. When he was recalled, ahead of the Twenty20 series against Australia in October, his body had other plans. He suffered an abdominal muscle injury while playing for the Chennai Super Kings in the Champions League T20 and had to withdraw from the national side. "It took me about five weeks to get match-fit again," he said. He then returned to play for the Titans in the Franchise 1-day Cup but, after one game, appendicitis struck. "It was quite sudden, I was fine on one day and the next I needed an operation."

Morkel recovered completely by mid-December and has been a regular in the Titans' starting XI since. He has played three first-class matches since his return, with improving results each time. In his most recent outing, against the Warriors, Morkel scored an unbeaten century in the first innings, a half-century in the second and took five wickets in the match. That performance, coupled with a knee injury to Knights batsman Dean Elgar, earned him his national recall.

Where he fits into the team is still unclear. Gary Kirsten, the South Africa coach, and Morkel were due to meet on Monday afternoon to discuss Morkel's role, which will most likely see him bat in his traditional lower-order position. Morkel is likely to function primarily as a bowler but his hitting down the order could become a key factor as well. "Bowling is what people will judge me on," he said. "Batting is always a bonus, though, and something I work on every day in the nets."

Morkel will jostle for a place in the XI with Kleinveldlt, who earned his recall after a promising showing for Cape Cobras in the Franchise 1-day Cup. Kleinveldt picked up 13 wickets in the competition and showed his value with quick runs at the end of innings. He said the fact that he had come back into the reckoning for the national team, after being left out of squads since 2010, showed his character.

"Being dropped is never nice but it's how you come back from that that matters. It shows your character," Kleinveldt said. "It's easy to fall into a trap and think your chance is gone but you go back, put in the numbers and show people you can play this game."

Kleinveldt's franchise, the Cobras, won the one-day cup this season and are top of the rankings in the SuperSport Series. They have also seen their fast bowler Vernon Philander achieve success with South Africa. Kleinveldt said being part of a strong side with experienced players had helped him develop. "It's very handy having experienced players around, especially Charl [Langeveldt]. He has played a lot of international cricket and his knowledge has always been a good thing for me and for Vernon. We've fed off him quite a bit."

The first match of the ODI series is in Paarl, where the Cobras play a fair number of their home games, and local knowledge could see Kleinveldt get the nod ahead of Morkel. "It was quite flat, slow and low," Klenveldt said about the last time he played on the Paarl pitch. "We chased down 280-odd recently and the surface played really well. I'd say 280 or 290 would be a good score there."

Having just completed a domestic 50-over tournament, Kleinveldt said the experience of having played with two new balls would be crucial in this series. "During night games, the ball moved around a lot longer and the reverse-swing factor didn't come into play as much."

That could have a significant impact on how Sri Lanka's trump card, fast bowler Lasith Malinga, fares in the series. "He is a handful with the new ball and especially the older ball," Morkel said. "With two new balls it will be interesting to see how his style of play changes because he was very dangerous when the ball was older and reversing."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 10, 2012, 23:51 GMT

    I never remember his bowling. All I remember his is watching hit sixes into the stands in the SCG and MCG against the Aussies. I was in the stands that day

  • Dummy4 on January 10, 2012, 11:24 GMT

    Where is vernon philandar???

  • Tso on January 10, 2012, 6:52 GMT

    The Proteas have a really good squad to pick from. I think the team will be very strong with the following starting 11: 1 - Smith, 2 - Amla, 3 - Kallis, 4 - AB de Villiers, 5 - JP Duminy, 6 - Albie Morkel, 7 - Rory Kleinveldt, 8 - Johan Botha, 9 - Dale Steyn, 10 - Vernon Philander, 11 - Lonwabo Tsotsobe. This starting 11 not only has good attacking and containing bowlers, but it also has batting depth in the big hitting all-rounders

  • Tony on January 10, 2012, 5:45 GMT

    surely a better team would be Smith, Amla, Kallis, de Villiers, Elgar, Ingram / Duminy, Botha, Philander, Theron, M Morkel, Tsotsobe. This team bats deep, potentially has a second spin option if Duminy is included, has 5 good quicks that can take wickets while keeping the scoring down. Steyn is a fantastic bowler, save him for the tests as he is an out and out wicket taker. I have yet to see any significant contribution from Faf

  • Bertus on January 10, 2012, 3:51 GMT

    I'd give Levi a run at the opening the birth for SA (Since Elgar is injured). He's explosive! 1) Levi 2) Smith 3) Amla 4) Kallis 5) AB 6) JP 7) A Morkel 8) Botha 9) Steyn 10) M Morkel 11) Tsotsobe.

    I think the above mentioned line-up has a bit more balance to it. I'll throw in Petersen, M van Wyk, Kleinveldt, Philander and Tahir in for cover.

    SA seriously needs another wicket keeper to put up is hand, especially for the longer format of the game

  • Satish on January 10, 2012, 3:36 GMT

    Well.. SA now has the slot which was not filled ever since Albie was dropped.. Good to see him back again to do it himself.. The top order should now wrok well to get Albie perform the smasher role and get him in by batting PP.. SA should try to use Botha's batting ability more.. Cant afford to miss out his batting in such a form.. If they use Botha in top 6, Robbie can replace Faf.. Provided Morne continues his woeful form, Parnell should replace him.. The 11 could be Smith, Amla, Kallis, ABDV, Duminy, Botha, Albie, Faf/Robbie, Morne/Parnell, Steyn, Tsotsobe.. Can have more options with 5 pace bowling and 3 spin options..

  • ras on January 9, 2012, 19:43 GMT

    Seems a good team on paper and wouldnt know how it will fare but boy am i glad not to see MARK BOUCHER'S NAME NOT ON THE LIST.... he is just terrible. He was out of ODI team long back due to poor run of for and still cant believe he is in the test. " Please don't comment about him being legend and what not - he is similar to Chris Martin with declining wicketkeeping skills every match. My team 1)HASHIM AMLA (your a wonder) 2) Graeme Smith (last chance for you to perform or make roads for RICHARD LEVI) 3) JACQUES KALLIS (is there anything you cant do) 4) ABRAHAM BENJAMIN DEVILLIERS ( class beyond DON BRADMAN) 5) JP DUMINY 6) FAF DU PLESSIS 7) ALBIE MORKEL 8) JOHAN BOTHA 9) DALE STEYN 10) MORNE MORKEL 11) LOWANBO TSOTSOBE. GO PROTEAS

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