Albie Morkel - The Perfect All-Rounder
India makes great batsmen, Pakistan has its pace factory, Sri Lanka has spinners and South Africa, they make better all rounders, especially seam bowling ones than any other cricketing nation.
Recent decades have given us Brian MacMillan, Shaun Pollock, Lance Klusener and most notably, Jacques Kallis but the pedigree of blessed all rounders from South Africa stretches as far back as 1898 when Jimmy Sinclair became the first man to score a century and take a six wicket haul in a Test.
Albie Morkel continues in that long line of South African players blessed with the ability to both hit a ball hard and long as well bowl tight channels at a good pace. You could say he was born to play cricket, his father Albert Morkel having played for Transvaal B and younger brother Morne Morkel being a regular for South Africa in all formats of the game.
He hasn't been able to live up to the tag of the next Klusener that he earned early in his career but with 257 T20 caps to his name, Albie is THE most prolific T20 player in the world, a prototype of the cricketer most suited to the newest, quickest and physically intense format of the game. He's played for as many as ten teams across India, South Africa, England and West Indies, scoring 3357 runs at a career average of 25.24 with a strike rate of 138.83. With the ball, Morkel has 204 wickets with an average of 26.82 and an economy rate of 7.75.
At Chennai, Albie was the preferred bowler in the opening and death overs, capable of generating enough lateral movement to make his wicket to wicket bowling dangerous. It isn't all just set ups; Albie can also crank up the pace on unresponsive pitches to keep a batsman honest. His early strikes and composure at the death have settled many games, making him an automatic selection for the playing XI.
As a batsman he works best in the lower middle order with his ability to start swinging right from the first ball. He's not the batsman who will give you many fifties but the violent 20s, 30s and 40s he slams at eye popping strike rates can change the course of a match within an over. He can settle in for the long run too, consolidating to arrest a collapse as he so often did for the Titans franchise in South Africa or just rotating the strike and chipping in with a few big hits now and then.
Morkel also holds the distinction of being the only bowler in the world to have taken a wicket in a T20 international without conceding a single run, against England in 2009 and 2012, his ability to get the best out of seam friendly pitches shining through along with his parsimony.
With such a rounded game it's no surprise that Albie is one of the most sought after T20 players in the world. His return to the South African side for the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh vindicates his worth to even a side as strong as the Proteas one.
When the time comes later this summer in the UAE and India, here's wishing Albie kicks up a storm in the desert.
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