I was pleased to hear Titans and South Africa all-rounder Chris Morris say this week that, despite a little tiff with Mother Cricket and her often tough ways, he has been spending more time than ever hitting balls in the nets.
Morris, having struggled in Bangladesh and then missing the series against New Zealand with an abdominal/groin muscle strain, has been recalled to the national squad for the tour of India which starts on September 29 as the selectors continue their search for a genuine all-rounder.
“I had a poor tour to Bangladesh, I shouldn’t have gone but you never want to turn down an opportunity to play for the Proteas,” Morris, whose grandfather also passed away in the middle of the T20 series, said.
“I came back from there and a lot of things in my head needed sorting out, because you’re in a very dark place when you’re injured. I thought about what I wanted to achieve – doing so badly made me think I wasn’t good enough to play for South Africa – and I went back to the drawing board.
“A couple of days in the bush and playing golf meant I got my passion for cricket back and I’m trying to be a proper all-rounder. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked on my batting, I’m hitting more balls than ever with [Titans coach] Rob Walter. My bowling will get me in the team, but I want to be a genuine all-rounder,” Morris said with surprising candour.
This will be great news for the selectors, who are known to be searching for someone who can hold their own with bat and ball in the number seven position. It’s amazing how South Africa’s all-round stocks have diminished when, for so many years, we had several of the best multi-skilled players in the world – Jacques Kallis, Albie Morkel, Shaun Pollock, Nicky Boje, Lance Klusener, Eric Simons, Brian McMillan, Mike Procter, Clive Rice, Anton Ferreira, Eddie Barlow and Trevor Goddard all spring to mind.
The selectors are not just looking for someone who can swing the bat to good effect in the lower-order, but a proper batsman who scores regular first-class centuries and who is a good enough bowler to be relied upon for 10 overs in an ODI.
The prime candidates to fit the bill are Morris, David Wiese and the unfortunate Ryan McLaren, who missed the World Cup because the selectors somehow reasoned that Farhaan Behardien and JP Duminy were genuine all-rounders. Wayne Parnell is also still in the picture.
The Australian team that won the World Cup had Shane Watson, Glenn Maxwell, wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc batting from five to number 10, and you can also throw Mitchell Marsh’s name into the discussion as an all-rounder.
The balance of the South African side is just so much better with a fifth frontline bowler, but then he has to be good enough with the bat to fill the number seven position. The gauntlet has been thrown down by the selectors and it will be interesting to watch the progress of the likes of Morris, Wiese and McLaren in the coming summer .
It will certainly help if the franchises give these candidates as much opportunity with the bat as they can.