Chris Morris says the contrast between the squalor on the pavements of India and the billionaire lifestyle of the IPL gave him clarity about what he wanted to do with his life.
“India made a massive impact on me and I learnt a huge amount, especially about lifestyle things. I realised how fortunate I was to be paid so well to play cricket, something I love doing. It was a humbling experience,” Morris says.
The way the Highveld Lions paceman ended up playing for the powerhouse Chennai Super Kings side in the IPL is the stuff of dreams. He literally bowled well enough in one spell for the Lions against the Chennai Super Kings in the 2012 Champions League for coach Stephen Fleming to convince the T20 team’s management that they had to sign the young bowling all-rounder. His fee was an astonishing $625 000, but word from the CSK camp is that they were willing to pay a million dollars for him.
But before his Indian adventure, Morris had already played a couple of T20 internationals for South Africa and he made his ODI debut for the Proteas after the IPL as he was called into the Champions League squad as a replacement for the injured Morne Morkel.
That’s because Morris’s passion for the game, his aggression and determination had already been clear to the South African selectors, even without any Indian epiphanies.
For Proteas bowling coach Allan Donald, attitude is Morris’s stand-out feature.
“What I really do like about Chris is that he gives it a crack, I like his attitude, he’s cocky, he’s got that arrogance towards what he does that all fast bowlers need. He gives so much on the field and it’s not put on, he wears his heart on his sleeve,” Donald says.
CHRISTOPHER HENRY MORRIS is the son of former Northerns left-arm spinner Willie Morris, who took 208 wickets in 74 first-class matches, and they are one of only three father-and-son pairs to have taken a first-class hat-trick anywhere in the world. Morris junior was born in Pretoria on 30 April 1987, attended Pretoria Boys’ High School and played for Northerns Schools in 2004, but he roamed in the relative wilderness of amateur provincial cricket for three years playing for North-West.
The Highveld Lions eventually contracted him for the 2011/12 season and he took the T20 competition by storm, but also showed the penetration needed to succeed in all formats as he claimed 23 wickets in five four-day matches.
The national selectors responded to the exciting talent he displayed by choosing him for the South Africa XI that played in a triangular T20 tournament with hosts Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in June 2012 and Morris then produced one of the most sensational spells of fast bowling seen at the Wanderers during the Lions’ first game there of the summer.
The Dolphins were chasing 241 for victory but Morris took eight for 44 in 21 overs – the best figures in the franchise’s history – to send the visitors crashing to 187 all out.
The Champions League was his next assignment and, in the Lions’ second match, he produced the spell – 4-1-24-1 – at Newlands against Chennai that changed his life.
Morris continued to be the spearhead of the powerful Lions attack in the Sunfoil Series, taking 32 wickets in six matches at an average of just 16, while he also shone in the Momentum One-Day Cup and the RamSlam T20 Challenge.
Having dreamt of being a professional cricketer, Morris has now been to the streets of India and back, but what lies ahead for the 26-year-old?
Donald is convinced Morris has a very exciting future and is the sort of attacking bowler who he wants to groom for Test cricket.
“He can certainly play Test cricket and it’s great that he’s not just focusing on T20 and thinks the IPL is the be-all and end-all for him. Chris has genuine pace and he swings the new ball away a bit, but bounce is his biggest asset. When he hits the right areas hard, then he’s very awkward to play.
“I spoke to Willie and told him what a lekker oke his son is to have in the team for what he brings to the group. I love his work, he’s a keen listener and eager to learn.
“I’m going to keep him tight on my shoulder and teach him how to think about his bowling and how to go about setting batsmen up. But he’s exciting,” Donald says.