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April 4, 2013
Albie Morkel has become the second South African player in the past one week to consider his international career over. In an interview to the Times of India, Morkel admitted he does not see the IPL as an opportunity to stake a claim for a national recall.
"By all counts I won't play for South Africa again, so it's not a desire of mine to prove anything to anyone," Morkel wrote. "My focus will be to do my best for CSK and contribute on and off the field."
Last Thursday Ashwell Prince signed a two-year Kolpak deal with Lancashire and yesterday went to Lord's to confirm the end of his ambitions to play for South Africa.
Morkel and Prince both lost their central contracts last month, when CSA announced their 21-player list. Also dropped from the books was Jacques Rudolph, Rusty Theron and the retired Mark Boucher. The four who are still playing were told by convener of selectors Andrew Hudson that they would be considered for the national team if any of them showed exceptional form, but the reassurance has not been a comfort to two of them.
Prince, who last played in the Boxing Day Test of 2011, appears to have accepted losing his place in the Test line-up. Mohammed Moosajee, the South Africa team manager who has known Prince throughout his career said that at 35, the batsmen was simply looking for ways to "further his career before retirement," so that the administrators harbour no hard feelings over his new contract.
For Morkel, the situation is a little different. He is regarded as one of the top Twenty20 allrounders in the game, has been called one of the best finishers by MS Dhoni and, on face value, seems to have all the qualities South Africa need in a powerful middle-order hitter in limited-overs. But his numbers do not match his reputation.
In ODIs, Morkel averages 23.69 with the bat and 37.98 with the ball and has seldom put in the kind of match-winning performance expected of him. His strike rate in T20s sits at over 142.73, but with South Africa's constantly changing structure there was never room to use him as an opening bowler and there was not a designated spot in the batting line-up for him. Morkel did not settle into a role, as he did at CSK, and the lack of certainty seemed to impact on his performances. Stephen Fleming alluded to that at the 2012 Champions League when he explained why Morkel's success in the IPL outweighed his achievements at international level.
"He is a bit more secure with us and a bit more in spotlight which may make him more comfortable with CSK in his role," Fleming said. "When you have got a talented side like South Africa, they try different techniques and tactics all the way through and he may be searching a bit for his role within the side."
The system gave Morkel many years, but not enough successive matches, to find his place and eventually cut him off. Although Hudson did not close the door on Morkel, he left it barely ajar when he said the selectors felt it was time to "move forward," and had "one or two other options in mind for the limited-overs formats."
Ryan McLaren is the first choice allrounder at the moment but Chris Morris, Morkel's new team-mate at CSK, is another of the players South Africa are looking to blood in that role. Morkel had nothing but praise for the man whom he may end up facing off against for a place in the starting XI. "Chris has really done well in the last two seasons in South Africa. He is a fierce competitor, bowls fast and can hit the ball long. He will definitely win CSK a few games," Morkel said.
Or his graciousness may just be another sign of how well Morkel has been managed by Fleming and how much he enjoys playing under him. Morkel will meet up with his CSK team-mates after playing in the South African domestic T20 final on Sunday which means he will not be available for their opener against Mumbai Indians on Saturday.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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