You can’t help but feel for Anrich Nortje. If it wasn’t for the fractures that have stalked him, the poor blighter wouldn’t catch a break.
Early injuries conspired to make his career a slow burner (he was 25 when he arrived in the national consciousness last year); an ankle injury shortened his breakthrough tournament (the Mzansi Super League); a shoulder injury put paid to his chances of taking up his first IPL draft and cut short his debut one-day international series against Sri Lanka; and now a broken thumb has ruled him out of the World Cup.
One tends to feel more sorry for the affable Nortje because whatever lemons life had thrown him before had not soured his outlook – instead, he had been patient, not felt sorry for himself, spent the time understanding his body and learning his craft, and, hell, he even finished a B Comm financial planning degree while he was at it.
But as unkind as this is going to sound, the Warriors fast bowler’s missing out for Chris Morris – a man who is a Parneytail short of becoming the new Wayne Parnell, thanks to being predictably unpredictable – is probably a blessing in disguise for the Proteas.
Having been enthused by Morris’ ability to bowl at 140km/h, plus a good short ball, hit a long ball and catch flies, Proteas coach Ottis Gibson had since cooled on the Titans man for two reasons: he hasn’t always been able to bend that outrageous combination of gifts to his will, even though he’s now 32; and that 1.96m, 95kg frame hasn’t always held up its side of the bargain.
So Morris went from being one of those players in possession of sport’s more nebulous titles – the X-factor – to being a Y-factor player (as in why the hell’s he in the team?). Put simply, despite being able to win his team’s games in three different ways, Morris isn’t always trusted.
But his inclusion in the team gives the Proteas balance in more ways than one.
He’s a more experienced version of the backup fast bowler they were looking for, he doubles up as the extra all-rounder Gibson – whose most recent coaching was with the all-rounder-laden England side – has yearned for all along, and in a team with unathletic figures such as Imran Tahir, Tabraiz Shamsi and Hashim Amla, having a player who can turn a game by taking a blinder will be handy.
The other way Morris balances a team chosen mostly on consistency and the known – be it the genius of Kagiso Rabada and Quinton de Kock, or Amla’s reputation – is by being one of only two unpredictable players in the side, the other being the wonderfully mercurial Andile Phehlukwayo.
Thanks to their past in World Cups, maybe the Proteas erred on the side of picking talents whose metronomic abilities could be relied on.
But in a tournament decided as much on skill, character and luck, bits and pieces individuals like Morris – who takes his cricket seriously regardless of his inability to do the same thing over and over again – can be a rabbit’s foot of sorts when the orthodoxy of the specialists hasn’t worked.
Also, Morris’ late reprieve should make him the one player desperate to prove the selectors and his detractors wrong, and he’ll also be desperate to prove his talent right.
As for the Parnell comparisons, Parney was given a chance at the last World Cup, but he blew it. Morris may not be trusted much in South Africa, but he is in the IPL. If you look at the calibre of white ball cricketers that competition has produced for India, that’s good enough for me.
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