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Albie Morkel — International future uncertain for South African all-rounder

Albie Morkel turns 33 © Getty Images
Albie Morkel turns 33 © Getty Images

Albie Morkel is a unique talent in international cricket. The South African all-rounder was compared to the great Lance Klusener for his similarities in playing style. Despite making a name for himself in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Albie has not managed to seal a permanent spot in the South African line-up. Shrikant Shankar ponders what the future holds for Albie on his 33rd birthday.

Johannes Albertus Morkel was born on June 10, 1981 in Transvaal, South Africa. After playing in various levels of junior cricket, Albie made his debut for South Africa in February 2004 in a One-Day International (ODI) against New Zealand. He then played in South Africa’s very first Twenty20 International on October 21, 2005 — also against New Zealand. Despite being recognized as a genuine all-rounder, Albie has played only one Test match.

A left-handed batsman, Albie can tonk the cricket ball to all parts of the ground. His strength is to get down on one knee and whack deliveries high and far over deep mid-wicket and long-on. He often settles in and then begins his attack rather than going gung-ho immediately. Albie bowls right-arm medium-fast, but is not a front-line bowler.

Early in Albie’s career, people might have thought that his playing style resembled another South African in Lance Klusener. While Albie can win a match on his own on a given day, Klusener could do it on a more consistent basis. Albie found it difficult to enter the Test arena as South Africa had a settled side.

When he did get a chance, Albie did not disappoint. He played the third Test against Australia at Cape Town in March 2009. It is ironic that Albie came into the team in place of his brother Morne. Albie’s first wicket was that of Ricky Ponting. He then scored a quick-fire 71-ball 58 with 10 fours and one six. He went wicket-less in the second innings, but South Africa won the match comfortably by an innings.

Surprisingly, Albie is still to play another Test. He has been overshadowed by his younger brother in the Test arena. In an interview to CricketCountry last year, Albie said that his focus was to play more Test cricket. He said: “It was definitely one of my goals to play more Test cricket. It just didn’t happen for me even though I played well in our domestic First-Class competition for many seasons. The only chance I got, which was against Australia, was a fantastic experience. Breaking into the South African Test squad is difficult even today. This is because they have a settled combination and the guys are doing really well.”

As of June 10, 2014, Albie has played 58 ODIs and scored 782 runs at a strike-rate of 100.25. He has also played 49 T20Is and scored 572 runs at a strike-rate of 142.28. Albie has taken 50 wickets in ODIs and 23 in T20Is.

Despite being in and out of the Proteas side over the years, Albie has made a name for himself in the Indian Premier League (IPL). He played for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) from the beginning of the IPL in 2008. He was an important member of MS Dhoni’s squad as CSK won back-to-back IPL titles in 2010 and in 2011. He also helped CSK win the CLT20 2010.

Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) — a team Albie regularly was the bane of — bought his services in the IPL 2014 auction. While he played well in IPL 7, RCB finished seventh in the team standings. Now he has turned 33, Albie might not have many more years of international cricket left. With stalwarts like Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith retiring at the turn of the year, Albie might still get a chance of playing a few more Tests. He might not be a Klusener, but when Albie gets going, there are not many bowlers who can stop him.

(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)

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