Morkel’s seize centre stage
Not since Peter Kirsten retired from international cricket after the 1994 tour of England has a set of brothers hit centre stage for the Proteas as the pride of Vereeniging, Albie and Morne Morkel, are doing at the moment.
Peter and his brother, Gary, were the first set of brothers to represent South Africa after unity and they had a brief career together which included opening the batting together at ODI level after Gary made his debut against Australia in 1993.
Before the Kirstens you have to go all the way back to Graeme and Peter (Shaun’s dad) Pollock from 1963 to 1970 to find two South African brothers filling a dominant role at international level.
The Pollock duo will be particularly remembered for their match and series winning partnership against England at Trent Bridge in 1965 when Graeme scored a century under extremely difficult batting conditions and then Peter took 10 wickets in the match (five in each innings).
Now it is the Morkels who are setting the scene alight, certainly as far as South African fans are concerned, in the ICC World Twenty20 on their home turf.
So far they have each picked up a man of the match award — Morne against Bangladesh and Albie against England — and they have both done well enough in other matches to be well in the running for the man of the tournament award.
Albie has already established himself as the longest six hitter in the tournament — a notable achievement in a competition of this nature — when he launched a delivery from Chris Schofield of England some 106 metres into the night sky at Newlands, very nearly across the railway line into the neighbouring brewery.
This was quite some feat as most of the biggest hits have benefited from the rarified atmosphere of the Wanderers. Albie’s strike rate of 171.42 after three matches is the fifth highest in the tournament and he is also the third leading six hitter with six strikes out of the ground to his credit.
Brother Morne is also right up there, having sent down 39 dot balls which is the second best in the tournament.
What has probably appealed to the cricket loving public is the fact that the two brothers are down-to-earth characters with whom the average man (or woman) can easily identify. Those, who know them well, describe Morne as the extrovert and Albie as the introvert. Albie certainly prefers to let his bat do the talking, just as his illustrious predecessor, Lance Klusener, used to do.
The Morkels are very much a cricket family. Eldest brother Malan was a useful player for the Gauteng Lions before an ankle injury cut short his career. Now he and his dad, Albert — a Transvaal Country Districts player for many years — run a cricket academy in their home town of Vereeniging at a satellite campus of Potchefstroom University.
Away from cricket, which consumes most of their time these days, the Morkels are an outdoors family. “We like to go fishing and hunting,” says Morne. “I have a very good relationship with Albie,” he adds. “For several years we shared accommodation in Pretoria but circumstances have now forced us to go separate ways.”
Albie made his Proteas debut against New Zealand at ODI level in 2004 and then had a couple of years in the wilderness, in part due to an ankle operation, but few will dispute the fact that he has now come to stay.
Morne made his Test debut against India last season when Dale Steyn was injured and he, too, can look forward to an exciting future.
At the respective ages of 26 and 23 — Morne turns 24 during the tour of Pakistan next month — they represent both the present and the future of South African cricket.