SA v ENG (1)
IND v NZ (1)
WU19 WC (1)
ZIM v WI (1)
Ranji Trophy (1)
Super Smash (1)
PAK-W in AUS (1)
19 July 1999
Morris's promise is left unfulfilled
"Success or failure, fulfilment or frustration in almost every sphere of human activity is dependent on whether or not one has the trick of imposing." The words belong to Ken Tynan, who was writing about Roman Polanski, but they could be applied, as he admitted, to more or less anybody in any discipline.
I can hear you already: what brings this on? Just this. The other day John Morris made the 49th hundred of his first-class career. One more and he can bake a cake and blow out the candles, if he has any breath left from chastising those people he imagines have been put on this earth to upset him by whispering "deceiver".
The Durham batsman - and that appellation takes some absorbing, so long was he associated with Derbyshire - has also passed 20,000 runs and is rightly proud of both achievements.
According to Martin Searby, reporting in this paper two days ago on Durham's victory against Derbyshire, to which Morris contributed 126, he wants to know how many contemporaries can match his record.
Is he, then, fulfilled? Those figures are not to be despised but there are other ways of measuring fulfilment and by any reasonable estimation Morris has fallen short.
Only 71 of his runs came in Tests and Test cricket is the gold standard. If he had been offered that record 15 years ago the young cavalier would surely have knocked it back.
Fulfilment depends more than anything on how much talent a person begins with, and Morris began with a lot. If he believes he explored it fully, then he is clearly not the player that I, for one, took him to be. When the call came, as it once did, he didn't have the "trick of imposing" at the highest level, which is where the first-raters reside.
The younger Morris, who emerged in the early Eighties, had an enviable range of strokes and he was not greatly fussed about when, and against whom, he employed them. He hit the ball hard and often and looked promising enough to raise hopes of a lengthy Test career.
It never came to pass. Although he played three times against India in 1990 and toured Australia that winter, his international career had no legs. His only claim to fame, and a spurious one at that, involved an airborne prank with David Gower which prompted a po-faced England manager to behave like a school prefect.
Whose fault was it? He contends it was England's, meaning those selectors who held him back in his early 20s when he was ripe for promotion. Others incline a different way, pointing out that his peers crossed the bridge from county to Test cricket: Alec Stewart, for instance. Stewart, a year older than Morris at 36, was not a more obviously gifted young man yet is now within touching distance of 6,000 Test runs.
"I've done more than my peers" is not a statement that survives rigorous examination. James Whitaker, 37, has led Leicestershire to two championships and is earmarked for promotion when he retires. Neil Fairbrother, 35, has won every domestic honour except the championship, played in a record 10 Lord's finals, and appeared in three World Cups.
Matthew Maynard, 33, led Glamorgan to the championship two years ago. Rob Bailey, 35, has a similar record to Morris - marginally smaller aggregate, higher average - but is widely regarded as one of the best men in the game, which is an accolade of sorts, albeit an invisible one.
Morris played in a Derbyshire team who won the Benson and Hedges Cup and the Sunday League. That is a fair achievement for a small club who seem to exist permanently on the edge of a Pennine cliff, though it was strange that when he secured his release he opted to join Durham, where the uneven pitches make batting such a misery, ahead of other counties who were keen to take him.
As his record shows him to have been a first-rate county performer, he cannot be said to have failed. But neither has he truly succeeded because he never developed into the player he wanted to be. He is not the first talented batsman to disappoint and he will not be the last but when he puts his bat away at the end of the season, as he has hinted, he should sit down, away from the back-slappers and hangers-on, and have a good long think.
He might have been England's Mark Waugh. Though he was never as good as Waugh, there are similarities. Both make batting look easy but, whereas the Australian appears to have an attacking stroke for every ball, he also learned early on how to build an innings, which often means giving the bowler the first half-hour.
Morris never acquired that humility and, as a result, he never developed the restraint that gives the great players an essential suit of armour. He remains a purveyor of 'sexy' shots, which is not the same thing as batting properly.
This story goes beyond Morris, for it is the inability of the English game to produce enough players of true Test rank that continues to hold back the national team. Neither Morris, nor Maynard, nor Bailey, nor Fairbrother, nor Whitaker made a Test hundred, and they could all play. It leaves a depressing chronicle of failure.
This week Morris returns to Cheltenham, where six years ago he played the innings of his life, a career-best 229 against a Gloucestershire attack who included Courtney Walsh. There are few better places to reach a personal landmark than the college ground and Morris will probably ping a few balls into the tents. Good for him. In the autumn of his years he deserves a bit of fun.
Do yourself a favour, John Edward. Make a pact with life. Otherwise you're doomed to sleepwalk through the rest of it. You're not a bad man. Nobody is going to point at you in the street and snigger. You have given a good deal of pleasure, though it's a mistake to think that knocking around with the likes of Alan Shearer will leave stardust on your sleeve. There's nothing to learn from a man who gives the impression he can't speak unless somebody pulls a string.
Own up to your imperfections and settle down. Then you can join the rest of us, who constantly fall short of expectations. It happens to the best; it happens to the rest. But it is a great pity all the same.
Source :: The Electronic Telegraph