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Chris Morris on South Africa future: 'That's a difficult question'

Allrounder on his IPL windfall, pressure of expectation, role model father and more

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Chris Morris cleaned up Chris Lynn with a superb yorker, Australia v South Africa, only T20I, Carrara Oval, November 17, 2018

Chris Morris hasn't had any chats with anyone at CSA about a potential return  •  Getty Images

Chris Morris is "just happy to get a gig" at the IPL, where he has become the most expensive player in the tournament's auction history, but has had no discussions with anyone at Cricket South Africa, including Director of Cricket Graeme Smith, about an international comeback. Morris last played for South Africa when he replaced the injured Anrich Nortje at the 2019 World Cup.
"My last conversation was just before the World Cup with (former national coach) Ottis (Gibson)," Morris said. That's where the decision was made for me to go and play leagues around the world and to follow what I feel is best for me as a cricketer and best for me in my career."
At the time, it seemed as if Gibson and his team were unsure they could find space to fit Morris into an XI built on specialists. "It's a difficult one because I am in-between the batters and the bowlers," Morris said. "We've got the world's best batters and the world's best bowlers and when you've got guys that can fill in a position in the team and you can mix and match for certain conditions, it's quite easy to swap the guys around."
Since then, with Smith taking over as DOC and Mark Boucher installed as national coach, South Africa have shifted their focus to using more all-rounders in their XIs, but that appears to have come too late for Morris.
"That allrounder spot has been spoken about for a while now, since the king (Jacques Kallis) retired. It's a difficult position to fill," he said. "The conversation then was that I am going to move on and that was the end of it. That was a while ago, the last time I had a conversation about that."
Asked if he was still available for selection for South Africa, Morris was not willing to provide a firm answer. "That's a difficult question," he said. "I will have to have that conversation when it happens. There's a lot of chat saying if someone comes (to ask me). No one has come. For now, I am focused on playing for the Titans, that's my first port of call."
Morris is currently involved in South Africa's domestic T20 challenge, which raised speculation that he may be eyeing a T20 World Cup spot, but it may just be a warm-up for the IPL, where he will rejoin the Rajasthan Royals. He last played for the franchise in 2015 and had since been part of the Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore, who let him go after IPL 2020. Morris wasn't even sure another team would pick him up, especially not at the price of US$2.2 million (the equivalent of R32.5 million).
"That came as a very big surprise. I was never expecting it. I had a conversation with (Knights coach) Allan Donald the day before and I said to him I'm just happy to get a gig. I just want to be playing," he said. "I am quite lucky that I am with Rajasthan. They are an unbelievably well run franchise and quite close knit. In 2015, I had a really good time with them."
While Morris is looking forward to teaming up with David Miller, learning from Ben Stokes and not having to face Jofra Archer, he admitted his price tag could raise expectations.
"There is a bit of added pressure. I've just got to do what I've been doing and hopefully stay on the field for all the games," he said. "The IPL is probably as stressful as international cricket because you've got the eyes of the world watching you. You need to perform. It doesn't matter what your pay cheque gets you, you are under pressure to perform."
This is Morris' third major windfall at the IPL - after Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers - and his stints at the tournament have given him a financial freedom cricketers of yesteryear, including his father Willie, could never experience.
"A lot of the cricketers from the past are all working men in corporate because cricket couldn't set you up for the rest of your life,"he said. "A guy like my dad who played 12 years of professional cricket had to go from work to practice in the afternoon and then get off work to play on the weekends."
Willie Morris, a left-arm spinner, has had a profound impact on his son who still thinks of him as his most significant role-model. "He has been an influence on my life since I was born," Morris said. "I remember the days when he would come back from a long day at work and gather up the energy to hit balls for me to catch. I grew up next to a cricket field. It's all I've ever known. It's all I have ever wanted to do - become a professional cricketer.Just to follow in his footsteps."
And on that front, Morris does have some unfinished business with South African cricket. "I am quite excited for the new 15 province thing," he said, referring to the revamp of the domestic system that will see the current franchises dissolved and replaced by a two-tier structure involving more teams. "It would be quite cool if I could get the opportunity to play for Northerns like my dad."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent