Morkel's joy at international lifeline
The person most surprised to hear Albie Morkel had been recalled to South Africa's Twenty20 squad was Albie Morkel himself. The allrounder had communication with convener of selectors Andrew Hudson a few days ago in which he was informed it was "more than likely," he would be in the squad but Morkel had not actually believed it until it became too real to ignore.
When the squad was announced on Monday morning, Morkel could finally say he was an international cricketer again. "I am very very excited," he told ESPNcricinfo. "And very surprised. When Andrew Hudson first spoke to me he said it very likely that I would probably be back but the actual confirmation came today when they had the press conference. I am very excited."
Ten months ago, Morkel did not think he would ever put a South African shirt on again. Ahead of last year's IPL, he was fresh from being cut from CSA's contract list and said his sole focus was doing well for the Chennai Super Kings, although he never officially killed his dream.
"I think some people mistook to say I would retire from international cricket and that really wasn't the case," he said. "The message I got from CSA was that they were moving on. It was something I had made peace with."
Morkel played for South Africa at the World T20 in Sri Lanka but was not included for the home series against New Zealand or Pakistan. Once no longer centrally contracted he thought the writing was on the wall and focused on T20 leagues particularly for his home franchise, Titans, who finished third in the domestic twenty-over competition.
"I didn't go out to prove anything. I just hit form at the right time and I am enjoying my cricket," he said. "It's nice to get recognition. It's nice to know people can go back on their word sometimes."
Morkel was Titans' third-highest run scorer with 202 runs at an average of 28.85 and a strike-rate of 127.84. Those numbers are not particularly standout but it was his role as a finisher that caught the eye. Morkel guided Titans to wins over Cobras, where he scored 22 of 21 balls in a chase of 89 in 10 overs, scored 49 off 25 balls in their win over Warriors, in which they were set a tall target of 198 and propelled them to a victory over Lions with a quick fire 18 from 16.
His ability as a finisher has always been spoken of as his biggest asset and as something South Africa need in major tournaments. Big runs are not always the most important consideration. Sometimes quick runs at the right time are more important and that is what Morkel has shown he can do.
It is too early for him to know his exact role in Bangladesh but he suspects it will be about bludgeoning when needed and he knows he will have the support of captain Faf du Plessis. "I think myself, JP, AB and David Miller will be the key to finish games so if we can get a good brotherhood going that will be key," he said. "Faf plays with me at Titans, we know each other well and it's know the captain backs you. It will give me a lot of confidence.
Despite not playing for South Africa for 18 months, Morkel is vastly experienced and he hopes he can draw on that for this tournament. He has played professional cricket for over a decade and in T20 leagues the world over and understands the pressures that come with the format.
"This will be my fifth T20 World Cup so I have been through this episode before where they are high expectations and we get knocked out and we get called all sorts of names. Some of the guys in the team also know what it feels like," he said.
"It's a mental thing we have to get ready for because leading up to the tournament there will be stuff like that floating around again. I've also toured Bangladesh before, on a one-day tour and it's a tough place. It's low and slow and there will be lots of dew there.
"I will give it my best shot and play with a clear mind. I will take all the experience from other World Cups. I am not going to make too many statements before the tournament because that can get you into trouble but we seem to have a good mix. You need a bit of a luck. You need half your team to be in form."
But perhaps most importantly for South Africa, Morkel knows how to win. He has been part of a CSK side that have triumphed in IPLs and CLT20s in the past and he understands what it takes to get over the line.
"Chennai is just a really good side with guys who knew exactly what role they must perform in the team. And the owners created a good environment so there was no pressure. Guys could play with freedom. I haven't played under Russell before but hopefully it will be similar. It will be an interesting challenge for everyone."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent