By R Kaushik in Colombo
South African all-rounder says his team's preparation will focus on tackling spin in Colombo
“That’s a tough group,” admitted Albie Morkel, the all-rounder, before a training session on Tuesday afternoon. “India has played some fantastic cricket, Pakistan is playing great cricket. Australia came up with some big performances. I think it will be a very tough group to qualify from.
"We have been playing in Hambantota. It looks like the wickets here are slower, and take a bit of turn. Our preparations are certainly going to be different from what we had in Hambantota where the wicket was a bit quicker, almost home conditions for us. We’ll focus on those scenarios. We are likely to face spinners in the Power Play and more of spin throughout the middle overs.”
Given the strength of the top order, Morkel has been a bit of a floater, often coming in with a few overs left and expected to get on with it straightaway. ”You are obviously a bit nervous,” he said. “You try and simulate that in training – I know you can’t really train the same as in matches and with teams, but you ask the net bowlers and set a target of ten off six and then try to get there. When you get there, it’s obviously very satisfying, and when you don’t, you know you have given your best.
“It’s really in 50-over games where you want specific roles. T20 cricket is fine because the impact you make could be in two or three balls, it doesn’t have to be 30 or 40 balls. So as long as you have that mindset, it doesn’t matter where you come in. I enjoy that, it’s a high-pressure situation and your success rate is probably five on ten or maybe lower. In the beginning of my career, in T20 cricket, you always felt like a failure if you scored eight off three or whatever, if you don’t get those results on the board. But once you understand the game better, you realise that the stuff I do actually contributes to the team getting totals on the board.”
South Africa spent a couple of days in Bentota after finishing its league engagements in Hambantota, before coming over to Colombo. “I think it was necessary,” said Morkel. “After the long England tour, we sort of got straight into the roundrobin games. We finished our games early and Gary (Kirsten, the coach) thought it’ll be nice for the guys to just spend two days out of the cricket environment – just relax, do what you want. Some of the families were out. It’s just good to relax a bit. Here we are again with two days to prepare for the game, and the guys certainly feel more fresh mentally.”
Morkel has been a key member of the Chennai Super Kings, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in the Indian Premier League from season one, and said playing in the IPL certainly helps when playing against India. “The IPL has brought international cricket closer in terms of players knowing each other,” he said. “Obviously, they (Suresh Raina as well) know I have been in their change room. Now that I’m going to speak to the South Africans about them, they will also change their game plans.”