[OPINION] Unsung hero Morkel leaves behind healthy fast bowling stock

Talk, lanky and an uncanny ability to extract good bounce from the docile of pitches and if there was ever a fast bowling template, Morne Morkel would easily fit that template.

Morkel was born in the rugged terrain of Vereeniging in the southern part of the Gauteng province and played his debut First Class game for Easterns against a touring West Indian side in January 2004. It took only two seasons for Morkel to make his Test debut against a talented Indian team in Durban in 2006 in the famous Boxing Day Test.

For 12 years, Morkel has often been the unsung hero in the Proteas fast bowling attack, he has also had to come out of the big-hitting all-rounder older brother Albie’s shadow in the initial part of his international career.

Morkel’s Test career has been astronomical and at times with little recognition for his efforts with ball in hand for his country. He was part of one of the greatest South African sides that dominated the Test arena for a number of years, rising to the number 1 spot in the Test rankings. The lanky fast bowler contributed 49 Test wickets in 2010, his highest ever in a calendar year.

And who could forget his exceptional ability bowling to left-handed batsmen? Morkel would often come from around the wicket to the lefties, angling the ball in and straightening while catching the edge of the bat or at times he would frighten the batsman with a barrage of short pitch bowling to soften them up so that at the other end Dale Steyn could work his magic with outswingers with the batsmen reluctant to move their feet.

He has made plenty of left-hand batsmen his bunnies over the 12 years, the more famous of those batsmen is none other than Michael Hussey. Morkel has dismissed the former Australian batsman eight times, with no other bowler having more success against the Australian.

His loss to South African cricket and indeed the International game will undoubtedly be felt, but Morkel now leaves at a time when South Africa’s bowling stocks are at their healthiest. The rise of Kagiso Rabada over the past three years has been impressive. He has recently reached the summit of the bowling rankings and together with new star Lungi Ngidi will be around for as long as Morkel has been.

There is still the wily Vernon Philander and Steyn in the mix, while Duanne Olivier and Chris Morris are more than capable at International level.

Junior Dala has also impressed in the recent T20 series against India and could still feature for the Proteas down the line.

Australia will be the final swansong for a workmanlike career for Morkel, he has enjoyed all the highs and plenty of lows of International cricket and now is the time for ‘Hados’ to enjoy his time with wife Roz Kelly and their son knowing that the fast bowling stocks are in a healthy position.