Albie Morkel set for domestic leadership role
Albie Morkel has played for his country, played for his franchise, played for three IPL teams, three counties, and a CPL team. He has played a Test, played more than 100 limited-overs internationals and over 500 representative matches. Until 22 games ago, he had played more T20s than any other player, a title which now belongs to Kieron Pollard, but that does not take away from Morkel's myriad achievements.
"He has done everything in the game, except lead," Mark Charlton, the coach of provincial side Northerns, told ESPNcricinfo. But this Saturday, that will change.
Morkel will captain Northerns in the Africa Cup, the new T20 tournament being played by South Africa's provincial team as well as invited teams from Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya, as a precursor to taking over the leadership of the Titans franchise in limited-overs formats. Morkel's accepting of the armband is an admission of what most already knew: his international career is probably over and he is looking at other ways to play a part. Mentorship has emerged as one of them.
"He is a very calm, assured, respected player and he is a guy everybody can take something from," Charlton said. "He has already been spending a lot of time with the young bowlers and guys are seeing that they can lean on his experience. We're hoping he'll have the same kind of effect Jacques Rudolph had at the Titans."
In the last two seasons, Rudolph had provided stability to a Titans' team in transition. He provided experience both in batting terms and behind the scenes as the squad went through retirements of some of their senior-most men like Martin van Jaarsveld and Paul Harris besides change in coaches. Rudolph has decided to finish his career in England and it is hoped that Morkel will take over from where he left off.
Titans, the franchise team which both Northerns and Easterns feed into, are still experimenting with a mix of players as they filter through a talented younger pool. Twenty-two year-old-opening batsman Theunis de Bruyn is one of them, while last year's Under-19 World Cup winners Corbin Bosch and Aiden Markram are two others. All three of those players will turn out for Northerns in the Africa Cup and Charlton hopes they will blossom under Morkel, with Markram in particular identified as someone who can feed off Morkel.
"Aiden is someone we have earmarked as a potential future leader, although we haven't quite decided in what capacity," Charlton said. Markram, who captained the national Under-19 side to World Cup glory last year, could end up as part of the leadership group of provincial team, for example.
Markram was awarded a semi-professional, provincial contact for the 2015-16 season after solid performances for Northerns last season. He played 10 first-class matches, scoring 424 runs at 30.28, including three fifties. He has not yet pushed on to franchise cricket but Charlton thinks that could change soon.
"He has been steadily going about his work and learning his game," Charlton said. "Quietly, he has been building his career and I think big things could come for him. He has a good base and a competition like this, the Africa Cup, is a chance for a player like Aiden to show he can compete with franchise players and to learn from them with guys like Albie also involved."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent