Albie Morkel is the latest to bandy around the so-called ‘X-factor’ term, which actually doesn’t favour Chris Morris.
Morris has gone from World Cup outsider to central figure as South Africa plot selection around the absence Dale Steyn for Thursday’s opening fixture against England at The Oval in London.
Shaun Pollock and Graeme Smith, too, mentioned Morris’ ‘X-factor’ during a recent television commentary stint. Morris was being carted to several corners of Sophia Gardens in Cardiff by Sri Lanka’s batsmen at the time. A late addition to the squad in the wake of Anrich Nortje’s exit, Morris did nothing in that match to counter the criticism he’s gathered over a checkered six years in ODI cricket.
Morris’ professed ‘X-factor’ should be reserved for the Delhi Capitals and other franchises in the Indian Premier League – and perhaps the T20 World Cup in Australia next year. This year’s World Cup in the United Kingdom will require more than four-over allotments with the ball or brief cameos down the order with the bat.
Australia’s Glenn Maxwell, India’s Hardik Pandya, England’s Jos Buttler and others deserve ‘X-factor’ status. Each boast unique qualities that justify selection, and can indeed, turn a contest in favour of the opposition. Morris can justifiably claim some merit with the bat, but certainly not with the ball.
Proven deliverables are entirely more attractive than the purported ‘X-factor’. Dwaine Pretorius’ burgeoning ODI career heralds the former and discounts the latter. While favour towards Morris may represent the emptiness of hype, Pretorius’ presence proves substance and assurance. Fans of Morris talk the walk. But Pretorius’ supporters bank on the talk being walked.
The corporate world accommodates what employees can potentially deliver for a defined period. Soon enough, accommodation turns to tolerance if that potential does not materialise. In the modern era of professional sport, similar key performance indicators hold players such as Morris to account.
Faf du Plessis and Linda Zondi have never given particularly glowing reviews of Morris. The Proteas captain has highlighted inconsistency, while the national selection convenor has struggled to substantiate a relatively permanent berth in the ODI XI for Morris. An average of less than six ODIs per year for the player attests to the lack of faith.
Now then, it is not the time to turn to ‘maybe’ Morris – not for the World Cup opener, or the rest of the campaign. Instead, ‘persistent’ Pretorius warrants as much investment, if not more.
Photo: Getty Images