Fatherhood and cricketers

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

NOT long ago, Morne Morkel was spotted strolling the Sea Point Promenade in Cape Town in the company of the sacred and the profane.

Actually, Morkel was taking the evening air with Graeme Smith and Dale Steyn. What with Morkel’s wife, Roz Kelly Morkel, heavily pregnant with the couple’s first child, the question leapt out of a glorious sunset: which of his companions’ views on “Life, How To Live” might he seek?

Steyn, as far as we can tell, is still raging hard against the dying of the light as a single man with a conscience. If settling down is on his agenda, it could involve raising rescue dogs or oil-soaked penguins rather than children.

Smith, the father of Cadence and Carter, aged three and two, is in the throes of an ugly divorce from Morgan Deane. He is the ill-fated star of a cautionary tale.

Living like Steyn is not an option for Morkel, even if he wanted to. Not that anyone wants to end up like Smith. At least his retirement as a player in March last year – prompted, he said at the time, by the stress of Cadence landing in hospital after an accident involving boiling water – has dimmed the spotlight on him.

However, Morkel will take on the challenge of suddenly splitting his focus between cricket and parenthood. AB de Villiers and JP Duminy already know how that feels, having become fathers for the first time in the past six weeks.

Between them Morkel, De Villiers and Duminy own 785 caps worth of experience for SA. Whichever way you spin it, that’s a lot of the team’s focus to split.

But can the bounce of a baby rather than a ball into players’ reality do that?

“I don’t think it affected the way I looked at or played the game but rather how I viewed life,” former SA captain Shaun Pollock, who also fathered children while he was playing at the highest level, said.

Former SA opening batsman Andrew Hudson differed: “It changes things quite a lot. It does have an impact, especially with your first-born – your priorities change.

“Some people are better at dealing with it than others, and in some cases having children can make players perform better.

“But all the going away does become difficult because your wife is left to handle everything at home.”

How Morkel, De Villiers and Duminy deal, as players, with their new lives will be revealed in the next few months. How SA adjust to that reality as a team will be an important factor in a summer studded with series against India and England.

If light relief from all that seriousness is required, consider the story of former SA batsman and noted hard bastard Eric Rowan walking the corridors of the Wanderers club in Johannesburg during the 1980s in the wake of the twin calamities of a rare “Mean Machine” loss and the tabloid tale of several of the team’s players being accused of fathering children with an assortment of women, none of them their partners.

“Can’t bloody play cricket,” Rowan scowled as he glared up at that season’s team photograph on the wall. “But, my God, are they virile.”

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