Not long after Peter Siddle went bananas, Morne Morkel decided to go green. Not with envy but in his diet.
Australia's workhorse adopted a vegan lifestyle, which includes eating up to 20 bananas a day, three years ago, with the encouragement of his partner Anna Weatherlake. Morkel, who is married to former Channel Nine presenter-turned-holistic health-and-wellness coach Roz Kelly, a friend of Weatherlake, has done something similar.
"Roz is really into her health stuff and it's helped me a lot. She's guided me with the whole healthy lifestyle," Morkel told ESPNcricinfo at South Africa's World Cup squad announcement last month. "It comes down to the way I train and my lifestyle off the field. Clean living. Green smoothies."
Unlike Siddle, who has since had problems with form and fatigue, Morkel has not gone cold turkey on the typical South African diet but tweaked it to suit his needs. "I still eat meat," Morkel admitted. "I've just cut out my sugar intake , I am very conscious about my sugar intake and the stuff I put into my body. I've cut out fizzy drinks. I drink water and I'll mix a lot of green smoothies."
The result is a fitter, faster Morkel who has averaged higher on the speed gun than Dale Steyn, and can clock longer hours. "I feel a lot more energy when I bowl. I don't have energy spikes," Morkel said. "I have been bowling longer spells and I've been quicker in my spells. With the training I have been putting in, I have to believe it's working."
Last year, Morkel bowled more overs than both Steyn and Vernon Philander in both, the eight Tests South Africa played and the 14 ODIs he featured in. He was their second highest wicket-taker in the longest format behind Steyn, and their chief assassin in 50-over cricket with 24 scalps at an average of 28.
He found the consistency he has sometimes been criticised for and the time to work on his craft. "I've enough time to work on death bowling, to work on slower [balls] and to practice my skills. I've found a rhythm and built on it and that gives me a lot of confidence," Morkel said. "In any sport, when you have confidence, you walk around with a bit more mongrel inside you. I feel very confident with my game at the moment, and the way the ball is coming out."
Morkel left South African shores with self-belief and planned to transfer it to the World Cup by sticking to what worked. "I've got a good set of drills and a structure to my training," he said. "It's not just about bowling now, it's about trusting that plan and not over-thinking. Once we get get to the World Cup it will be about finding my feet."
The whole South African squad appeared to be testing the waters in their opener against Zimbabwe. Although they won the match comfortably, they were under pressure with both bat and ball, which may not bother Morkel too much. "With Kolkata [Knights Riders], we lost seven games on the bounce and won the last nine. So it's also about peaking at the right time," he said.
But that was said before the tournament had kicked-off, when Morkel also urged his team-mates to "switch on and start to eat, play and live cricket at the World Cup. We've got a great team and great names on paper but going there and winning the World Cup isn't going to be easy and it's important for us to realise that," he said then.
It was equally important to acknowledge the weight of expectation that has been placed on this side, by everyone including themselves and Morkel has done that. "I've been part of this team getting Test awards and winning in that format; beating Australia in Australia; beating England in England," Morkel said. "Speaking to Jacques [Kallis] and those guys before that, this is the ultimate dream for them as well and to win that trophy for them and the guys before us and the whole country, that will be the ultimate. It will be the ultimate for me, it will be the ultimate for everyone."
So will it be a green smoothie, rather than champagne to celebrate if South Africa end up as champions? "A green and gold one," Morkel said. "I'll add an extra bit of mango to it."And maybe a steak on the side.