IPL 2021: Chris Morris ready to lead or support with ball in Rajasthan Royals, plays down price tag pressure
Post the IPL 2021 auctions in February, mention of Chris Morris has inevitably been followed by money talk. With a price tag of Rs.16.25 crore making him the costliest IPL player ever, it’s natural. The South African all-rounder though has taken it in his stride.
In his first media interaction back as Rajasthan Royals player for the new season on Tuesday, questions range from “what will you do with so much money?” to “are you feeling the pressure because of your price tag?” Morris understands.
“It’s natural to have a little bit of added pressure when something like that has happened (the feverish auction). I would be lying if there wasn’t any pressure. Fortunately, in the past I have come with a good price tag on my head. At the end of the day, you have to perform whatever your price tag is,” Morris said.
“I would not say it affected me, but an initial pressure was there. But I think the more you get into the tournament, the more you interact with your team, it just goes away.”
Morris has landed from South Africa, and is currently in quarantine in Mumbai. He is yet to interact with RR teammates and support staff. Even before the franchise could start to train full tilt, they received a big blow with Jofra Archer ruled out at least for the first half of IPL following elbow surgery. Morris, who the new RR cricket director Kumar Sangakkara had said would play a support role to Archer, now might have to spearhead the pace attack.
“It won’t be a new role if I am leading an attack, won’t be new if I am supporting. There is a little bit of responsibility when it comes to leading the attack. But like I said, it wouldn’t be alien to me. Generally, my task is taking the new ball and then finishing with a couple of overs in the death. And maybe one over in the middle if there is a need. Archer is a massive miss. He is a rock star with the ball. Hopefully he comes back towards the end,” Morris said.
“Thick-skinned and acceptance are two of the most important things at the death. The calmest mind usually comes out on top. As a bowler you have to accept that you can go for runs, that you can be hit for sixes. It’s about limiting the damage. The noise will not go away whether there is a crowd or not. You have to keep in mind that the next day is a new day.”
In Archer’s absence, Morris will team up with leading all-rounder Ben Stokes to lead the charge among RR’s foreign players. “We have got different roles. Stokes opens the batting. He is one of the best in the world. My role is to finish off games with the bat, which I hope I can do more of this year.
“With the ball it’s different, I think he (Stokes) bowled a lot less in IPL last year than he did in the previous years. But the guy has got the magic touch. So, you know, if we feed off each other in our different roles in the team, we could be quite an interesting duo to come up against.”
Morris, 33, has been part of four IPL franchises across seven editions—starting with Chennai Super Kings, he played for RR, Delhi Daredevils (now Capitals), and Royal Challengers Bangalore last season. Though he has scored only one half-century apiece in two seasons batting down the order, with a best aggregate of 195 in 2016, he has taken more than 10 wickets in all seasons barring a curtailed 2018.
Returning to RR, he will play under a new captain in Sanju Samson. “I have batted with him at Rajasthan and Delhi. I don’t see him as a young captain, I see him as a seriously good player who has got a great cricket brain,” Morris said. “For a guy who can keep wicket and field, he’s seen different angles, different approaches from the back and the side.”
Samson’s elevation to captaincy came after Steve Smith was released, subsequently picked by Delhi Capitals. After a disappointing IPL 2020 when the former champions finished eighth and last, Samson has the task of ensuring RR’s redemption. He will have Rahul Tewatia, a surprise star of the last edition with his hitting ability and leg-spin. Samson will hope Morris leads the way.
“It’s hard to not look at Tewatia. I don’t think he was a breakthrough talent of last season. I have known him since we played together for Delhi. It will be nice to catch up and know what has been different for him in the last couple of years,” said Morris.
The Proteas all-rounder hasn’t played competitive cricket since the CSA T20 Challenge in February. It raises concerns whether he will be match fit for IPL, which starts on April 9. Morris has also suffered injuries in the last few seasons.
“It has been a little bit of a roller-coaster, of course; I have been disappointed with injuries. I will try my best to come back,” he said.
“There has not been much match practice; what I have had is basically one long pre-season. I was running around, bowling with the red ball. I am doing everything I can without actually playing cricket. Injuries have come at the wrong time. Last year (side strain playing for RCB), it was a different one. There wasn’t any cricket coming into IPL, so there were soft tissue injuries, lot of torn muscles. I have done everything to stay cricket fit.”