Ready to rip your hair out? Chris Morris reacts to a boundary © Getty Images
Chris Morris‘ search for speed caused the back injury that has sidelined him for the last four months. As a result, he has had to modify his action.
Morris suffered a lower-back problem in England in August, which ruled him out of the fourth Test in Manchester and all action since. He expects to make a return midway through the Ram Slam, for the Titans, and when he does, it will not be at the expense of pace but with a smoother, better approach which the new coach Ottis Gibson has helped him with.
“I’ve had a few tweaks in my action that Ottis has changed. I had to iron it out because it wasn’t good enough – simple as that,” Morris said at the Ram Slam launch in Johannesburg. “I think in striving for a bit of extra pace, there was some twisting in my action. I’ve got quite a bad kick-out with my left foot before I land. I was getting lazy and doing quite a lot of twisting, which caused a lot of pressure on my lower back and inevitably caused the injury.”
A hallmark of Morris’ performances in England was his pace, particularly when Faf du Plessis gave him freedom to “be aggressive and bowl fast.” The directive paid off in the short term as Morris dismissed Joe Root and Alastair Cook in an impressive spell at Trent Bridge but caused a long-term concern.
Though Morris did not break or tear anything, he suffered inflammation and strain in the muscles of the lower back. If left untreated, it could have caused a stress fracture. Part of the treatment was making the changes to his action that should keep Morris symptom-free, though he knows he may respond adversely at any time.
“If I didn’t get injured I still would have had to change my action. In bowling, you like to work in straight lines, and I was working along the wrong lines. That’s where the injury came along,” he explained. “We can’t re-scan the same injury because we’d see the same thing the whole time. So we work on symptoms – if there is pain you stop, otherwise you play. I’ve got to trust the gym and rehab, all the things I’ve been doing behind the scenes since my injury happened.”
Like Morris, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Wayne Parnell have also been doing undergoing intensive rehabilitation. Philander also had a lower back problem and returned to action in the first-class competition, with good results – he took five wickets and scored 80 for the Cobras. Steyn, Morkel and Parnell will all be back at some stage of the Ram Slam, which means that when the time comes for choosing a Test squad – first to face Zimbabwe in the inaugural four-day Test on Boxing Day and then to play India – there will be competition.
Gibson has already flung the door open for Steyn, saying as long as the premier pacer thinks he can make it through a match, he will play. Morris cannot expect the same hospitality, given his relative inexperience especially at Test level. But he was encouraged by Gibson’s approach and is confident he can work his way back.
“It’s always good to know that the coach is backing the guys who aren’t playing, especially with injuries because that’s part of the game,” Morris said. “If a youngster is better than me he must play, it’s as simple as that, but I’m always going to be fighting for my spot because playing for South Africa is what I want to do. If I never play for South Africa again it’s cool, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I’m obviously champing at the bit. It hurt me quite a lot to see the guys running around this morning and playing soccer, so I’ve got quite a lot of motivation.”
Morris is particularly looking forward to working more with Gibson, whose experience with England he is hoping to draw on.
“I’ve only had a week and a half with him and he’s been excellent. In England, he had the fortune of working with the best new-ball attack in the world in my opinion. If they’ve rubbed off on him, as a South African bowling attack we’re going to be richer for it,” Morris said. “He’s been doing this for a long time and has a lot of experience. It’s quite clear what our plans are going forward as a team. We’re in a happy space, and it’s quite exciting.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo