South Africa fast bowler Morne Morkel has announced he will retire from international cricket at the end of the Australia Test series. South Africa will host Australia for four Tests starting March 1 in Durban.
"It was an extremely tough decision but I feel the time is right to start a new chapter," Morkel said. "I have a young family and a foreign wife, and the current demanding international schedule has put a lot of strain us. I have to put them first and this decision will only benefit us going forward.
"I have loved every minute that I have played in the Proteas jersey, and I am incredibly grateful to my team mates, Cricket South Africa, and my family and friends for the support over the years. I still feel there is a lot of cricket left in me and I am excited for what lies ahead. For now, all of my energy and focus is on helping the Proteas win the upcoming series against Australia."
When South Africa were in England last year, Morkel was pursued by at least three counties as a Kolpak signing for the 2018 season. The 33-year-old was linked to a Kolpak deal most recently during the India Test series. Indian media reported that Morkel's father said his son needed to "secure his future" and was considering the Kolpak option but Morkel strongly denied that he was nearing retirement. "There's still plenty of goals I want to achieve. There's no truth to that," he said on January 15, during the Test at SuperSport Park.
He will now end his international career when the fourth Test ends on April 3 in Johannesburg. Provided he plays all four matches, Morkel will finish with 87 Tests and will add to his current tally of 294 Test wickets - fifth overall for South Africa.
Since making his Test debut in 2006, Morkel has been a vital part of South Africa's most potent pace attack along with Dale Steyn, especially after Makhaya Ntini's last Test in 2009. More recently, he led their pace attack in late 2015 in India when South Africa were without Steyn and Vernon Philander.
Morkel suffered a career-threatening back injury in 2016, which kept him out of action for most of the year. He missed series against New Zealand, Australia and Sri Lanka and only returned to the team in March 2017, in New Zealand but appeared a much improved bowler. While Morkel always had the skill of extracting bounce, on his comeback he had also developed the ability to pitch the ball up more. His consistency and menace only grew and he was South Africa's leading wicket-taker on their tour to England in 2017.
Limited-overs formats took a backseat as Morkel's career went on. He faded into and out of the South Africa limited-overs side after finishing as their top wicket-taker in the 2015 World Cup. He was not named in the 2016 World T20 squad, did not play in the 2017 IPL as he sought to find form ahead of a demanding international season, and was unsold in this year's auction. His involvement in the 2019 World Cup was also unclear.
At the start of the summer, Morkel said he needed to discuss with new coach Ottis Gibson about whether he would feature in the white-ball set-up before deciding on his future. In the weeks that followed, Gibson said he had spoken to Morkel and explained that, like every other player, he would be considered if he performed well. Morkel played in five of the six ODIs against India and appeared to be among South Africa's candidates for the 2019 World Cup until his retirement announcement on Monday.
He will end his ODI career with 188 wickets from 117 matches at an average of 25.32 with two five-fors. In T20 internationals - which he last played in Lahore for the World XI side - he collected 47 wickets from 44 matches at an economy rate of 7.50.
He ranked in the ICC's top 10 bowlers in all formats at some stage of his career and was No. 1 in ODIs for a period in 2011.
Should Morkel decide to go Kolpak - Yorkshire and Surrey are believed to be interested in signing him - he would become the latest in a line of South Africans to quit international cricket and take up a county contract. A year ago, Kyle Abbott's departure for Hampshire sent shockwaves through the game in South Africa, with internationals such as Rilee Rossouw, Simon Harmer and Stiaan van Zyl also among those moving to the UK.