Albie Morkel's international career might not have taken flight the way a lot of people expected it to, but he has been a stellar performer for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. Speaking to Wisden India ahead of the perform-or-perish stage of the tournament, he said that though his role in the team is a tough one, the high when he got it right was worth the trouble.
Albie, to start with, tell us about your international career. To some, it seems like a long story of unfulfilled promise?
It's a tough world out there. I started in 2004 against New Zealand but was in and out of the side for the next seven or eight years. Yeah, it's been tough, but I suppose I have to look in the mirror and be honest. If I am being honest, I'd have to say that I have had some good games and some bad games. But all in all, I am happy with my career. Everyone has some talent, but it's about what you do on the field that decides whether you are a good player or a great player. I am still relatively young, so maybe there's still some ammunition left in me.
You were called the next Lance Klusener. In the IPL, we've seen you live up to the hype, but is it lack of opportunities or something missing in your game that's seen you play just one Test and about 60 one-dayers so far?
I think the problem is in comparing people because then the new guy falls short of expectations. I was compared to Lance Klusener at the start of my career because I batted left-handed, bowled right-handed and had the ability to hit sixes. I would like to leave my own legacy behind. When people talk about me, or if people talk about me, I wouldn't want them to compare me to Lance.Â I want them to talk about the abilities I brought to the field instead.
You'll certainly leave a solid legacy behind in Chennai...
It's been amazing. Lance will be remembered for being a good player for South Africa, and maybe I will be remembered for being a good player for Chennai. The experience has been amazing. The people in the team, the support staff... it's all been amazing. It's been a great five years with Chennai, but in the IPL, I don't know where I will be next year or the year after that. Hopefully, my performances have been good enough for me to stay on with Chennai.
Much like Steve Smith for Pune Warriors, your role seems to be to get those 12-14 runs per over towards the end. Is that your forte or has it just become your role?
I think that's my role in the team. And it's a tough job because you either win the game for your team or you lose it. Of course, it's not always like that. Often the guys at the top win the game for you. But very often, you know that if you don't score 20-odd from 10 balls, your team is going to lose. I actually enjoy that role because when it comes off, the hype and energy you get is great.
In that match against Royal Challengers Bangalore, you might have pushed Virat Kohli to give up bowling for good!
Virat is a tough guy (laughs). On the field, he is always in your face. I don't think it will stick with him because he is not a frontline bowler. I think he backs himself with his batting and is a great fielder and, like I said, always in your face. So I don't think it will haunt him for long.
Let's talk about your brother Morne; he has become a permanent fixture in the South African team. What's your relationship with him like? Is there a lot of competition?
We've got a very good relationship. We don't compete on the cricket field and compare stats. Back home, we are just brothers. People might remember us as cricketers, but there is a massive life outside of cricket. Morne has been bowling brilliantly for the past one or two years and has formed a great partnership with Dale (Steyn). And I am really happy to see that. Morne works really hard at his game. He had some shortcomings when he started out, but he has worked on them. Dale and he are probably the two best fast bowlers in the world today. I follow his game with great interest of course and enjoy it when he does well. He has bowled brilliantly in the IPL and exploited the conditions very well. When we play against each other in the IPL though, we play to beat each other.
And the team you are part of; a lot might go wrong, but you guys can never be counted out, right?
That's right. We have worked hard to build a strong team where roles are defined for everyone. We have had a more or less unchanged squad from the first year and that has helped a great deal. Yeah, we play to win, we play hard, and as long as it comes off, we're happy.
Shamya Dasgupta is Senior Editor, Wisden India