Chris Morris had played all of one international – a T20I against New Zealand in Durban – when he earned his maiden IPL deal in 2013, with the Chennai Super Kings shelling out US$ 625,000 for him. Eight years later, Morris’ South Africa future is uncertain, but he continues to be a sought-after player in the IPL.
In the most recent auction, he became the most expensive player ever in the IPL, with the Rajasthan Royals outbidding the Royal Challengers Bangalore to sign him for INR 16.25 crore (USD 2.2 million approx.).
Morris recalled the fierce bidding war for him at the auction earlier in February, saying his “breath was taken away”.
“Look, I’ll be the first person to say that my breath was taken away,” Morris said during a virtual-media interaction on Tuesday. “I didn’t expect to first of all be bought for that much and second of all for so many teams to want to employ my services. It’s definitely a humbling feeling…and like I said it took my breath away for that to happen and for teams to keep going for me like that blew my mind.”
Between the end of IPL 2020, when Morris was injured, and the IPL 2021 auction, Morris hadn’t played a single competitive game, but the Royals still broke the bank for his big hitting and death bowling. Those dual skills have made him a T20 globetrotter – he has had stints in the BBL, IPL, and T20 Blast in England. This will be Morris’ eighth IPL season and he will return to the Royals, a franchise he represented in 2015, when they made the playoffs. Morris, now 33, said that initially he didn’t see himself playing as many seasons in the league.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought I’ll be in my ninth IPL or eighth – math has never been my strong suit – but I never thought I’ll be playing this many IPLs,” he said. “For me to still be needed for my services and be valued is very cool and humbled. We need to put the performances in; it’s as simple as that. When you do contribute to the team and have a bit of fun…amazing things happen when you have fun on the cricket field.”
Morris also looked back at the IPL as a “life-changing” event, cherishing the experience of playing with and against top international players in the world.
“You want to use the word life-changing, but every single time you come to the IPL, your life changes whether it’s personal or cricket or anything else,” he said. “It’s a life-changing experience to be part of the IPL. It’s been an absolute blast of a journey so far and hopefully there’s a new story to be written over the next nine weeks.”
Morris, though, refused to view the IPL as a dry run for the 2021 T20 World Cup, which will also be held in India, insisting that his focus is entirely on performing for the Royals.
“Whether there’s a World Cup or not, it’s going to be a very important [IPL] season all the way,” he said. “Like I said, World Cup or no World Cup, [I] still want to win the IPL doesn’t matter what’s coming up after. Your main focus is to win the IPL – the second-biggest trophy, if not the biggest trophy to win in a year without the World Cup. It’s the biggest trophy to win as a cricketer playing domestic cricket. The whole world is watching you, the eyes are on you. It’s the one. It’s the big one to win as a player especially when you’re playing in it for a quite a number of years. You don’t want to use the word tick the box, but definitely something you want to do to have an opportunity to win the IPL.
“Fortunately enough, in the past I have come in [to the tournament] with quite a big price tag on my head, so at the end of the day, you got to perform on the field, no matter what your price tag is.”
“Other guys will hopefully be focusing on the World Cup and that takes their focus away from the IPL and we can jump onto that. Personally, I’m not worried about the World Cup, I’m here to do the job to win matches and hopefully push for winning the trophy in the IPL.”
Earlier this year, when asked about his South Africa future, Morris didn’t provide a firm answer. This time as well, he maintained his stance on the matter, having last played international cricket in the 2019 50-over World Cup.
“I haven’t even looked that far,” Morris said. “I’ve just focused on playing for Rajasthan Royals – that’s my immediate focus and port of call right now. We will cross that bridge if we get there – if it ever arrives – but no focus on that and all my focus is here.”
Playing for the Royals will invite price-tag pressure – and there will be greater pressure if the injured Jofra Archer is sidelined from the entire tournament – but Morris wasn’t too fussed about it, having dealt with it in the past.
“It’s natural to have a little bit of added pressure when something like that has happened [at the auction],” he said. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t any pressure. But, fortunately enough, in the past I have come in [to the tournament] with quite a big price tag on my head, so at the end of the day, you got to perform on the field, no matter what your price tag is. So, there is a little bit of added pressure, but the pressure that you get from a price tag doesn’t affect you on a cricket field at the end of the day.”
Morris disagrees with Steyn about too much money talk in IPL
During his PSL stint with the Quetta Gladiators, Dale Steyn, speaking to Cricket Pakistan, reckoned that the IPL was less rewarding than some of the other T20 leagues, with more “emphasis on the amount of money”. Morris, however, disagreed with his former team-mate at South Africa and the Royal Challengers.
“No, I don’t feel the same (laughs). Dale’s a free spirit, Dale’s one of the legends of the game, Dale’s one of my favourite people in the world,” Morris said. “Dale’s got his opinions, he will be outspoken about his opinions, but that’s Dale’s character.
“I’m not going to delve into it too much and it was just the case of Dale feeling at that time what Dale was feeling – what he was feeling emotionally or physically or mentally. Whatever he feels that’s what he feels, and I’m happy to have a conversation with him about it. But, we’re all different animals, we’re all different people and we have different opinions and that’s what makes the world go around.”
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
The Hundred – Jofra Archer not expected to link up with Southern Brave this week
Team hopeful of having the pacer for the last four games as he continues a gradual comeback from elbow surgery
Archer has played twice for Sussex in the last 10 days, first bowling three overs in their Vitality Blast win against Kent and a further six against Oxfordshire in a 50-over warm-up match last Tuesday, but has not linked up with the Southern Brave squad since the start of the Hundred and is not expected to do so this week.
“It’s one of those where I’m staying out of it and leaving it to the experts in that area. Hopefully we do get him because it would be a big boost for us, but if we don’t, we’ve got guys who are capable here.”
An ECB spokesperson said that a further update on Archer’s fitness was expected next week but did not confirm whether he had been given a pain-killing injection in the last two days. Archer underwent elbow surgery in May following an aborted comeback from the injury at the start of the English summer.
The Brave were the pre-tournament favourites for the men’s competition but have lost both of their first two games and are already in danger of missing out on the knockout stages, with only the top three teams progressing. Mahela Jayawardene, their head coach, has regularly recovered from sluggish starts while coaching Mumbai Indians in the IPL, and Vince suggested that his recent experience with Hampshire – who squeezed into the Blast’s quarter-finals in the final round of group games – meant he was not panicking yet.
“I’m sure we’ll realise that we need to start winning soon but I’ve just been part of a Hampshire side in the Blast that got off to a bit of a slow start and then managed to play some great cricket towards the back end and get some momentum going,” he said. “I think this format will be very similar.
“We’re aware we need to improve in a few areas but we were much better [on Tuesday] and had our chance to win the game. The next three or four games coming up will be important to make sure we’re there or thereabouts come the last few.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
Recent Match Report – Somerset vs Glamorgan Group 1 2021
Michael Hogan’s four-for not enough as Glamorgan let several winning positions slip
Somerset 180 for 7 (Green 87, Hogan 4-33) beat Glamorgan 179 for 9 by one run
Andy Gorvin needed a six off the last ball of the game from left-arm spinner Goldsworthy to win the game for Glamorgan and came close with a powerful four over the bowler’s head.
Play did not start until 12.10pm, with the game initially reduced to 42 overs per side. Somerset’s innings had only occupied 2.4 of them, with five runs scored, when rain forced the players off.
That was enough time for Hogan to strike twice, Sam Young caught behind off the fourth ball of the innings and Steven Davies brilliantly snapped up by Gorvin at midwicket from the first delivery of the third over.
On the resumption, the veteran pace bowler took his figures to 3 for 3 by bowling George Bartlett between bat and pad and then had James Hildreth caught at first slip.
Somerset were in disarray at 49 for 5 when Eddie Byrom feathered a ball from offspinner Steven Reingold through to wicketkeeper Cullen.
But Green and Goldsworthy calmly steadied the ship and had taken the total to 84 for 5 in the 26th over when heavier rain brought another stoppage at 2.10pm.
Half an hour later, with a further reduction in overs, Green and Goldsworthy batted with far more intent. Green was the main aggressor, with Goldsworthy notching just one boundary in his valuable innings before slogging a catch to cow corner off Callum Taylor.
Green, cut loose in the closing overs with some majestic shots until playing a ball from Lukas Carey onto his stumps in the final over.
Glamorgan’s reply began badly when Hamish Rutherford fell lbw to the final ball of Jack Brooks’ opening over.
Eighteen-year-old Baker then got a ball to lift at Nick Selman’s ribs, forcing the opener to loop up a catch to the diving Byrom, running in from square leg.
Aldridge produced a similar quick delivery, his first of the game, to have Kiran Carlson caught by wicketkeeper Davies for 21. And when Green also struck with his opening delivery, bowling Reingold for 16, Glamorgan were 52 for 4.
Cullen and Root then put together a well-paced stand of 76 to put their team in sight of victory. It ended when Cullen was caught behind down the leg side off Aldridge, who followed up by having Joe Cooke taken by wicketkeeper Davies.
Root fell to George Drissell, the former Gloucestershire offspinner making his Somerset debut, top-edging a slog-sweep with 38 still needed.
Carey did his best with two boundaries, but other wickets fell cheaply and 10 off the final over for the last pair proved too much.
Recent Match Report – West Indies vs Pakistan 1st T20I 2021
Hasan Ali and debutant Mohammad Wasim impress for Pakistan with the ball
No result West Indies 85 for 5 (Pollard 22*, Hasan 2-11, Qadir 1-6) vs Pakistan
Incessant rain first reduced the first West Indies-Pakistan T20I to a nine-over shootout before eventually washing away the match. Pakistan had chosen to bowl first under cloudy skies with rain also predicted, but the teams raced off to the dressing room just after completing their national anthems. It took almost three hours for the rain to stop and the ground to dry, with the umpires then deciding to curtail the contest.
Debutant Wasim has instant impact
Wasim was taken off after that, but returned to bowl the seventh over. After hurting Simmons, he then had Chris Gayle caught at long-on as the bowler now brought out the slower ball. Gayle, who had come in after Simmons, played away from his body to try and heave that, but only found the fielder in search of rapid runs.
Amidst a flurry of dot balls – which were 30 in total – and a bunch of extras, which contributed 14, there were five wickets claimed with as many sixes slammed from the third over until the eighth. Hasan Ali got two, while Mohammad Hafeez, Usman Qadir and Wasim all grabbed a wicket each. Nicholas Pooran cracked twin sixes off Hafeez, before Gayle deposited Shadab Khan over his head and Andre Russell dispatched Qadir over extra cover – all this, before Pollard got into Ali with a whip.
Pollard provides late entertainment, but Hasan delivers too
Pollard arrived at the crease with one ball of the sixth over left, but watched from the other end as Gayle fell in the following over with West Indies’ run rate still under nine. With Pollard on strike, Ali was brought back for the eighth after foxing Evin Lewis off his first ball earlier in the innings. This time, Ali was whacked first ball over deep square leg as Pollard swung his bat to a good length ball on middle and leg, and despite not quite finding the middle of the bat, sent the ball sailing over deep square leg.
But that was the only boundary Ali conceded off his two overs, digging the slower balls perfectly on a rain-affected pitch to keep the West Indies batters quiet. Ali then got Shimron Hetmyer three balls later – Mohammad Rizwan completed a good diving catch – with the hosts struggling for momentum amidst the numerous cutters from the visiting bowlers.
Pollard was on 10 off 5 deliveries when only four balls remained in the innings, and the West Indies captain ensured they were well taken care of. A dot ball later, Shaheen Afridi pitched one short on middle and leg as Pollard pulled fiercely to bisect deep square leg and deep midwicket for four. After nabbing two more runs, he ended with a maximum by sending the ball crashing over deep square leg when he made room to a length ball on middle and off, and pulled with disdain. Although he got 12 runs off the last three balls, rain would have the final say with Pakistan not having to chase the total.
Himanshu Agrawal is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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