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