It doesn’t happen often, but Morne Morkel will have to lead from the front if Dale Steyn fails to recover for the third Test against India.
Steyn has been the leader of South Africa’s bowling attack for the past seven years and if he cannot shake off a niggling groin injury, it will be a big blow as the Proteas aim to get back into the series.
Steyn took a 10-wicket haul the last time South Africa played a Test in Nagpur.
Morkel has always operated in Steyn’s shadow, but he’ll have to step out and lead the charge, despite the fact that Steyn has been bowling in the lead-up to the third Test, which starts on Wednesday.
‘Dale bowled this morning in the nets, which was a pleasing thing for us to see,’ Morkel said. ‘Obviously a groin is a tricky sort of injury so I think they’ll keep on monitoring it and give him time until Wednesday morning before they decide.’
Steyn won’t be risked and his possible absence has forced the selectors to call up Marchant de Lange as cover.
Despite having a good track record in away series, South Africa go into the Nagpur Test with their backs against the wall and still trying to find a way of countering India’s spin attack.
‘We are the No 1 Test team in the world, so our language in the dressing room is very positive,’ Morkel insisted.
‘Yes, the first two Tests didn’t go our way but we are starting fresh on Wednesday. We’ve had some injuries on this tour, but that is no excuse from us. We need to deliver and hopefully we can play five days of good Test cricket.
‘As a fast bowling unit we are expecting no favours in India. We knew the wickets were going to turn. For us, mental preparation was going to be key to bowling well with the reverse swing. That has been a big strength of ours in the past.
‘From a personal point of view, it is just about bowing well with whoever is at the other end. If I can keep the pressure on the batsmen while the spinners are toiling away, that is what I am aiming to do. In the same breath I’m also hoping to get one or two [wickets] myself,’ he said.
‘If we can execute our game plans well we can walk off the field at the end of the day with our heads held high.’