He took 544 international wickets and was one of the most feared fast bowlers on the planet in his pomp, but Morne Morkel admits he’s a little jittery ahead of his Australian club cricket debut this weekend.
The former Proteas star who now lives in Sydney with his family will pull on the T20 kit of his local Premier Cricket side Manly-Warringah on Sunday as he prepares to play in the Mzansi Super League, South Africa’s domestic T20 competition which kicks off in December.
Morkel is fresh off playing a full season of county cricket with London outfit Surrey and has trained with Manly this week ahead of their match against Randwick-Petersham at Coogee Oval.
“I was just hoping to play beach cricket,” the 35-year-old joked on Macquarie Radio. “But they (Manly) have welcomed me with open arms. I’m really looking forward to it.
“I don’t know what to expect – I know the standard is going to high quality. I’m a little bit nervous because I haven’t bowled a ball in five weeks so hopefully I can contribute to the team.”
“I’m more excited just to get back onto the park. After a long county stint in the UK, it’s important for me to get some game time before I head back to South Africa for the start of the Mzansi Super League.”
The winners of NSW’s two Premier T20 divisions will qualify for the National Premier Twenty20 Championships, to be held for a second time early next year after a successful inaugural tournament in Adelaide in March last summer.
Morkel has trained with New South Wales’ Sheffield Shield squad since moving to Sydney with his wife Roz Kelly – a renowned sport journalist with Network Ten – and the pair’s two children, and has previously expressed an interest in playing in the KFC Big Bash League.
He is however unlikely to qualify as a local player before the upcoming season. He could still be signed as an overseas player, but clubs are only allowed to field two internationals per game and most have filled their quota.
While his family all hold Australian passports, Morkel does not and would need to at least gain permanent residency before he qualifies as a local – which will be difficult to do given he spent the winter in the United Kingdom with Surrey.
“Australia is going to be home for me from now on so hopefully we can sort out passports and visas and those sort of things,” he told cricket.com.au in March. “I understand there’s a process and I respect that.
“I’m open to any possibilities and opportunities that come my way because I’m going to base myself in Australia for the next couple of years or however long it may be. Australia’s going to be my home so I’m definitely trying to get my foot in the door.”
Morkel called time on an 11-year international career following Australia’s eventful tour of South Africa last year and has played in all formats over the last two seasons for Surrey, helping them win the County Championship title in 2018.
The Proteas have since also lost legends AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla from their Test side.
With the likes of Duanne Oliver, Dane Vilas, Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw taking up lucrative Kolpak deals in England, which preclude them from playing international cricket, South Africa have lost a mountain of talent in recent years.
They lost two consecutive Tests by an innings for the first time in 84 years against India earlier this month to seal a 0-3 series whitewash to the No.1 side in the world.
“If you take five players out of any team, they’re going to struggle,” Morkel said. “They find themselves in a very dark position at the moment but they truly know how to get out of that.
“It’s going to take time, they’re trying a new coaching structure which I think everyone’s keeping a close eye on so we’ll have to sit out and buy some time and see these new guys develop.
“Particularly the talent in this squad, it’s just a matter of these guys learning the skills to compete for five days at International level.”
Gillette T20 INTLs v Sri Lanka
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Billy Stanlake, Mitchell Starc, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, David Warner, Adam Zampa
Sri Lanka squad: Lasith Malinga (c), Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilaka, Avishka Fernando, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Shehan Jayasuriya, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Oshada Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Nuwan Pradeep, Lahiru Kumara, Isuru Udana, Kasun Rajitha
October 27: First T20I, Adelaide Oval, 2pm (Fox & Kayo)
October 30: Second T20I, Gabba, 6.10pm (Fox & Kayo)
November 1: Third T20I, MCG, 7.10pm (Fox & Kayo)
Gillette T20 INTLs v Pakistan
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir.
November 3: First T20I, SCG, 2.30pm (Fox & Kayo)
November 5: Second T20I, Manuka Oval, 7.10pm (Fox & Kayo)
November 8: Third T20I, Perth Stadium, 4.30pm (Fox & Kayo)