Chris Morris will need to find consistency if he aims to help the Proteas lift the World Cup Trophy, writes KHALID MOHIDIN.
On Tuesday, Morris was named as replacement for the injured Anrich Nortje in the Proteas’ World Cup squad.
When it comes to the subject of Morris’ position in the South African cricketing landscape, one has to reflect on the words of CSA selection convenor Linda Zondi’s when he announced the Proteas’ touring squad to Australia in October 2018.
‘We need consistency from him. He can’t be the guy who has so much potential to fill the role we require, and not perform consistently at his best,’ he said.
‘He has all the attributes we’re looking for. But he needs to finish his overs and make an impact with the bat. He needs to enhance his performances. We had a look at [a] few options, but we are almost done with that process. The window is closing.’
That window did close and the Proteas all-rounder has still not played a single ODI for the Proteas since January 2018, and was initially omitted from the Proteas’ World Cup squad.
All seemed fair, because with an average of 19 with the bat and 40 with the ball, it seemed a bit risky to select Morris purely on his presumed inherent ability.
He was deemed an ‘X-factor’ player by his skipper in January 2018 ahead of the first Test against India, when Faf du Plessis explained why Morris has fallen down the pecking order in the Test side.
‘If you pick four seamers, he [Morris] can be among them. Consistency-wise, he still has a lot to do to be the third seamer.
‘If you want to be a third seamer, you have to be consistently on the money. Vernon [Philander], Morne [Morkel], KG [Kagiso Rabada] and Dale, those guys are a step above.
‘He [Morris] is always someone who’s talked about because he has pace and X-factor. He can also bat and is a good all-round player.’
It’s blatantly obvious that this is the case in the ODI set-up too, with Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Steyn and Nortje favoured as the main pacemen, while Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius have jumped ahead of Morris as the go-to all-rounders.
This all changed on Tuesday when Cricket South Africa called a press conference to discuss their injuries ahead of the World Cup.
Proteas team manager Mohammed Moosajee brought concerning news, but for some his announcement was received with cautious celebration. Morris, who made it into the World Cup XV of many pundits and ex-players, was called up to the squad.
@Tipo_Morris well done with the call up!! You were in my wC team from the start.
— Albie Morkel (@albiemorkel) May 7, 2019
Make that two of us. Really excited. https://t.co/h266MwueAf
— paul harris (@paulharris12) May 7, 2019
‘Chris has always been in our plans and is our next best option with the ball,’ Zondi explained. ‘He has the pace and death-bowling skills which will be vital in the UK, and also gives us that depth as a deadly finisher with the bat.’
We need to see precisely this in the World Cup. There is no room for Morris to present hot-and-cold form. He needs to show consistency with the bat as well as the ball, and lift his game to the level of his potential.
It’s true, he does provide extra batting depth, and gives the Proteas the option to pick three all-rounders, but his job first and foremost is as a seam replacement for Nortje.
He has shown signs of consistency in this season’s IPL, taking 13 wickets at an average of 23, but he needs to up his game for the World Cup to bowl at least six overs and boost his average with the bat throughout the tournament.
Morris is an ‘X-factor’ player and can turn a game on its head at any given moment, but given the Proteas’ batting frailties and injury concerns to their bowlers, he needs to be more.
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