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Shirin Sadikot in Johannesburg

I don’t bowl to prove people wrong anymore: Morkel

Daredevils’ bowling spearhead reveals the secret of his recent rapid growth

There’s no bowler in world cricket who has improved in the last couple of years as much as Morne Morkel has. When he came into the limelight, Morkel was a tall, tearaway fast bowler who looked to bounce the batsman out off every delivery and at times, ended up being erratic and inconsistent. Today, he is still a tall, tearaway fast bowler with bounce as his premier strength but he has added more skills and calmness to his repertoire.

The big display of Morkel’s improved self came during IPL 2012 where he emerged as the Delhi Daredevils’ major weapon on the batsman-friendly Indian pitches. His 25 scalps in 16 matches at an economy rate of 7.19 gave DD the top spot on the points table going into the knockouts. Morkel was the highest wicket-taker of the tournament.

The numbers are impressive, but more so was the control he had over his bowling. Instead of banging in every ball short, he bowled a fuller length and developed variations, which are such a crucial part of bowling in T20 today.

Back with his IPL franchise, for the CLT20 – and to his utter delight, in his own country – Morkel shared the secrets of his recent growth as a bowler with clt20.com. He revealed the areas he has worked on and said how he doesn’t bowl to “prove people wrong” anymore and enjoys his game to the hilt.

Excerpts:

You’re back home and back with the Daredevils. Happy about that?

It’s the CLT20 and it’s happening in my country. I’ve been on the road for a while travelling with the South African team. It’s so nice to get back home, play in front of my own people and for a quality team like the Delhi Daredevils. Hopefully, we can have a good start and entertain the people.

Also as a fast bowler, would you rather bowl on these wickets than the Indian ones?

I don’t really mind. It’s always really nice to have home advantage. But over the years I’ve adjusted and learned a lot of skills of bowling on subcontinent wickets.

Pace bowling is one of DD’s main strengths. It’s not a bad strength to have on South African pitches.

Yeah, it’s early in the season in South Africa and so the pitches will be fresh and good for fast bowling. So, it’s a pity we don’t have Varun Aaron. He’s injured and I think we’re going to miss him quite a lot. But it’s quite different playing on the coast and on the Highveld as the conditions change quite a lot.

Despite being the tournament’s highest wicket-taker, you sat out the semi-final in IPL 2012. You don’t see that happening in these conditions, do you?

I can’t control those things. Whatever the management decides is best for the team, I need to accept that and be a good team man. If they want to accommodate an extra batsman – it’s never nice but if that’s what the team needs – so be it. The only way a team can move forward is when you take your personal victories aside and think about the team.

In the Proteas team you have someone like Dale Steyn to lead the way, while at DD you’re the spearhead. How do you adjust to the changing role?

As a senior bowler in the team, I should let guys like Umesh [Yadav] make their own mistakes and find their feet. That’s the only way they’re going to grow. I just try and put my best foot forward in my bowling and maybe advise the guys on the field in pressure situations. But I think it’s important for me to take that label of the spearhead off and let the other guys also see the importance of their role. That’s how the team is going to grow.

What is your advice to your fellow pacers like Irfan Pathan and Umesh Yadav?

I think Irfan has done fantastically well in the past year or so. He’s back in the Indian team and is swinging the ball well. I’d just ask him to keep things as simple as possible. When the conditions are helpful for you, you shouldn’t try to over think and just bowl your best delivery. It’s just about bowling to your own skills and strengths.

Let’s talk about your bowling. You’ve improved by leaps and bounds in the last year or two. What would you credit this success to?

I have worked on my game but the most important thing for me was to just focus my energy on the mental side of things. There was lot of pressure on me due to my inconsistencies. And the harder I tried to prove people wrong, the deeper I got into trouble. As soon as I started focusing my energy on just enjoying my cricket, the results went my way. When I go on the field now, I’m much more relaxed and there’s no huge burden on my shoulders. I’m enjoying my game, accepting the failures and trying to improve every day.

Did you work on your length as well?

I think my length’s been good but I’m a guy who thrives on bounce. I’m not someone like Dale Steyn who bowls a touch fuller and swings the ball. Since I don’t swing the ball, for me my lengths are very, very crucial.

Being a tall, fast bowler, do you believe in the varieties that bowlers come up with – the slower ones, cutters, etc.?

I think you need to be one step ahead of the batsman. You need to have plan B and be able to have various skills to outthink the batsman. Nowadays, you can’t even afford to bowl six yorkers in a row because the batsmen have come up with the reverse sweeps and all sort of fancy shots. If you look at a guy like AB de Villiers, he can hit the ball 360 degrees; he can score anywhere. So, where do you bowl? It’s a big challenge, but it’s also something that motivates you to go on the field and compete.

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