The problem starts with his feet positioning, his left foot is ‘splayed’. He’s delivering the ball from too close to the stumps. His leading arm isn’t pulling down hard or far enough during delivery, his shoulder position isn’t ‘strong’ enough and his fingers aren’t behind the wrist at the point of delivery.
Otherwise, Morne Morkel is doing just fine. There’s nothing wrong with his haircut and his boots are nice and clean.
If the big man needs to look for consolation during his prolonged spell of wretched form, then it can be found in the flood of advice and opinion being offered. If he wasn’t so important to the team, and such a vital member of the attack, people wouldn’t be so concerned – and quick to offer an opinion. Monde Zondeki might well wish that people had been so concerned about his lack of rhythm and accuracy during the one-dayers which preceded the Test series.
But the problem with the concern (panic?) amongst the wise and not-so-wise onlookers is that Morkel is clearly feeling it, and the tension in his body is palpable. Before any advice can be used constructively, he needs to relax. Oh great, yet another piece of useless advice from yet another person who doesn’t know what it feels like to bowl a cricket ball at 140 kilometres per hour.
Just relax. That’s as helpful as telling a struggling batsman to ‘time the ball’, or a long distance runner to ‘breath’. It’s not the ‘what’ which is the problem for Morkel, it’s the ‘how’.
Morkel is in good hands with Proteas bowling coach Vinnie Barnes, an unobtrusive technician with a track record of successfully guiding most of the men he has worked with through their inevitable dips in form. And his strength is in encouraging the bowlers to as much thinking for themselves as possible rather than merely following instruction and thereby missing the crucial element of understanding their action.
Barnes has been working hard with Morkel for three weeks and, before the first Test, was confident that they had identified a couple of technical glitches and resolved them. Sadly, Morkel’s woeful performance in the first innings against Bangladesh in Bloemfontein on Thursday suggested he had receded even further rather than improved. Often in sport, of course, things have to get worse before they can get better.
But there is such passion and ‘will’ amongst some very wise and experienced men for Morkel to come right, that it would be a pity not to attempt to utilise it. Line them up and let them have 20 minutes each with Morkel? No!
A better idea, perhaps, would be for Mickey Arthur to encourage Barnes to talk to those with an opinion, to assimilate the information and opinion he gathers and then to pass it on if he believes it to be relevant and appropriate, to Morkel. If Arthur can appoint Duncan Fletcher on a (very well paid) consultancy basis, then Barnes can most certainly make use of further expert opinion – for free.
Other than Morkel’s strife, the Test squad is looking in prime condition to tackle Australia. Never mind the quality of the opposition, batsmen and bowlers are applying the required disciplines and strategies to succeed. Everything must now be done to help the last piece of the jigsaw to fit.
The incorrect perception that certain experts are attempting to ‘muscle in’ on the national squad must be discarded. And even if it were true, the vast majority have nothing personal to gain and only the national interest at heart.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.