Opinion: Morkel not a mere shadow to Steyn and Philander

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Is Morne Morkel one of the most underrated pace bowlers in international cricket? Bimal Mirwani reckons so.

Is Morne Morkel one of the most underrated pace bowlers in international cricket today?

Morne Morkel. Tall, fast and destructive. That's how I see him, but in the eyes of the cricketing community he is simply a cog in the well-oiled machine that consists of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.

I feel that people are missing the plot here. Morkel is much more that a shadow behind Steyn and Philander. He is truly a force to be reckoned with in more ways than one.

Morkel has not got to where he is without his fair share of struggles. In fact, he bowled 17 no-balls in a five-over spell when he was handed the opportunity to play for Easterns against a touring West Indies side at the age of 19.

At the rate he was going, Morkel was turning out to be a more useful batsman than a bowler, especially considering that he made an unbeaten 44 in that very same match.

But, Morkel's poor fortunes with the ball soon turned around as he started generating raw pace, which was made that much better by his bounce and 6ft 5in frame. Morkel soon took advantage of his height and started tormenting batsmen with his virulent pace, leaving them shaking in their boots.

Who can forget the time when Morkel broke Ross Taylor's arm in March 2012. Morkel bowled a ferocious bouncer that struck Taylor right above the wrist. The brutal delivery ended up fracturing Taylor's ulna bone, which required surgery to repair in the end.

However, that is not the only instance of Morkel injuring a player. During the first day of the third Test against Australia in Cape Town in March this year, Australia captain Michael Clarke became the next victim of Morkel's deadly bouncers.

Clarke took blows to the elbow, shoulder and helmet during one fiery spell from Morkel, and as a result, he sustained a fractured shoulder. Now who says that Steyn is the most vicious and lethal bowler in Test cricket.

Sticking on the theme of Morkel's bouncers, the 29-year-old uses it to keep batsmen on the back foot, under immense pressure and fearing for their lives. While this may not get him the wickets or credit he sorely deserves, it allows Steyn and Philander to circle around like a pair of sharks that have found their next target.

But, they will not have to fight or weaken their target as that service has already been provided by Morkel. Instead, they can simply pick up the scraps and celebrate as their tally of wickets continues to grows.

Another aspect in which Morkel excels is his ability to drastically cut the opposition's run rate. Morkel consistently forces the batsmen to work for their runs and each run they score seems like a tough task in itself. While many people may not be impressed by his average economy rate of 3.20, do not let the record and statistics fool you.

Morkel is indeed a master at causing the runs to dry up, which subsequently leads to batsmen playing false strokes due to the pressure of not being able to keep the scoreboard ticking.

Bouncers, putting players in the hospital, keeping batsmen on the back foot and cutting off the flow of runs. This is exactly why Morkel, in my eyes, is definitely one of the most underrated bowlers in international cricket today.

He is much more than a supporting figure to Steyn and Philander. In fact, he is just as formidable and fatal as they are and people should start taking him seriously and view him as more of a threat instead of leaving him to languish in the shadow of Steyn and Philander's ferocity.

<b>Bimal Mirwani</b> | <i>@BimalMirwani</i>

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