Does the world’s most expensive T20 player, Chris Morris, have a Proteas future? SA Cricket magazine editor RYAN VREDE scrutinises his case.
When the gavel came down on Morris at this past Thursday’s IPL auction, the 33-year-old all-rounder was considered to be worth an estimated R32 million, making him the most expensive player in IPL history.
There is legitimate debate about whether he is worth that. Morris is a fine player but he is not a young man, and although T20 is less demanding on your mind and body, the IPL’s schedule is brutal.
Secondly, his form in last season’s tournament was ordinary. He averaged just 8.50 over nine matches with a highest score of 25*. That ranked him 75th in the tournament. On the bowling front, 11 wickets at an average of 19.01 and an economy rate of 6.63 across nine matches made him a very useful player for the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
However, one can’t ignore the context that made Morris a multimillionaire. The Rajasthan Royals had more salary cap available than any other team in the auction. They also desperately needed at least one high-quality all-rounder (Shivam Dube was also recruited) to amplify their title challenge.
Supply was low, demand was high, Morris was minted.
I saw many on social media wonder out loud about how Morris could command this extraordinary fee at an IPL auction but not be in the Proteas’ T20I set-up. He hasn’t played a T20I since late 2019 and has an international T20 record reflecting a betrayal of his immense talent.
He averages just 14.77 with the batting across 13 innings, with a highest score of 55*. That innings accounts for just shy of half his total runs – 133. With the ball, he averages 20.50 with an economy rate of 8.39 across 23 innings. This is decent by international standards.
With the World T20 looming, there is every chance the planet’s costliest T20 player could make the Proteas squad, though, especially considering the Proteas’ struggles to find one that is able to establish himself.
In recent history, the Proteas have handed opportunities to Wayne Parnell and David Wiese in a bid to fill this frustrating hole in the lineup. That struggle continues to the present day.
Andile Phehlukwayo is at a crossroads in his T20I career. He did nothing to advance his cause for World T20 selection in the recently concluded series against Pakistan. Dwaine Pretorius was inconsistent in that series, as he has been throughout his T20I career.
There could be a scenario where the Proteas opt for another spin-bowling all-rounder in the squad given the expected conditions. There has been an investment in Jon-Jon Smuts which has yielded meagre returns, Bjorn Fortuin has shown up nicely in the infancy of his T20I career, while George Linde seems to be at the tail of that queue.
Morris’ case is likely to be strengthened by his knowledge of and experience in Indian conditions. Much could depend on Morris’ showing in the current CSA T20 Challenge. He had a good opening weekend, scoring 21* in one of the two matches he played and has bowled 7.2 overs at the incredible economy rate of 4.22, taking three wickets.
Overall, South Africa’s stock of world-class or potentially world-class T20I all-rounders is disconcertingly low. The domestic game is arguably weaker than it has ever been in the professional era, evidenced by the first weekend of the CSA T20 Challenge, during which the level of skills, temperament and tactical intelligence, broadly speaking, was poor.
Morris’ selection would most likely have been discussed prior to the World T20 had he not commanded the huge recruitment fee he did last week.
That fee, however, has shone the spotlight on him and ensured that his performances in the coming months will be carefully scrutinised.
SA players not picked up in the draft
- Rassie van der Dussen
- Wayne Parnell
- Beuran Hendricks
- Hardus Viljoen
- Andile Phehlukwayo
- Daryn Dupavillon
- Morne Morkel
- George Linde
- Dwaine Pretorious
- David Wiese
- Gerald Coetzee
- Jacques Snyman
SA players retained by IPL franchises
- Faf Du Plessis (Chennai Super Kings)
- Lungi Ngidi (Chennai Super Kings)
- Kagiso Rabada (Delhi Capitals)
- Anrich Nortje (Delhi Capitals)
- Quinton De Kock (Mumbai Indians)
- David Miller (Rajasthan Royals)
- AB De Villiers (Royal Challengers Bangalore)