TELFORD VICE in Cape Town
THIS time last year Chris Morris was less than half the bowler he has become for the Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
In the tournament’s 2016 edition Morris had five scalps after bowling in six games.
After half-dozen stints with the ball this year he has 12.
That puts him joint-second among wicket-takers – level with Mitchell McClenaghan and four behind Bhuv Kumar.
Morris’ economy rate of 6.90 pegs him 10th among bowlers who have played more than one game in this year’s IPL.
He and Kumar are the only bowlers who feature three times on the list of the 25 best performances.
Morris is grabbing even bigger headlines with the bat, and that’s despite having scored 43 fewer runs compared to the same stage of last year’s IPL.
His highlight last year was the 82 not out he made off 32 balls that took Delhi from 16/3 and 57/4 to within a run of overhauling the Gujarat Lions’ 172/6.
That earned Morris modern cricket’s rarest honour – being named man-of-the-match despite being in the losing team.
He scored another half-century in a losing cause on April 22 this year when he made 52 not out against the Mumbai Indians and shared a stand of 91 with IPL debutant Kagiso Rabada after Delhi had been reduced to 24/6.
Which caused the Times of India to wonder “Is Chris Morris batting too low?”
The question was prompted by Morris’ blast of 38 not out off nine balls against Rising Pune Supergiant on April 11, when he came in at No. 6 after 18.2 overs.
Against Mumbai Morris was at the crease just two balls later, but at No. 8.
“I don’t think it’s a co-incidence that he’s one of the most expensive allrounders in the tournament,” former fast bowler, big hitter and national selector Hugh Page said on Monday.
“In that form of cricket he’s a matchwinner.”
Morris, then, is earning the US$1 044 000 the Daredevils are paying him for his services.
But Page’s bigger point was that Morris knew he belonged.
“I think he feels he’s a permanent fixture in the Delhi Daredevils side.
“When you play one game and you’re not sure of you’re going to play the next, that doesn’t help.
“Certain guys need to know and feel that they’re part of the set-up.
“That’s difficult to feel if you’re not playing consistently.
“He is bowling better, there’s no doubt. But a lot of that comes from peace of mind – knowing your place is not on the line.”
Indeed, Morris has featured in all six of Delhi’s games this year. But last year he played in 12 of their 14 matches.
So what was Page on about?
Probably, Morris’ place in South Africa’s team.
He missed 10 of the 17 one-day internationals they played in 2016; some through injury but others because of selection decisions.
With South Africa’s allrounder landscape strewn with Andile Phehlukwayo, Farhaan Behardien, Wayne Parnell and Dwaine Pretorius along with Morris, job security could be hard to achieve.
All of them are in the squad for the Champions Trophy in England in June.
But, on current form, and even though what it takes to succeed in the IPL is a long way from what will be required to win games in the Champions Trophy, the man in possession must be Morris.