Morne Morkel has left Surrey after three seasons at the club on a Kolpak registration, after deciding that it was “no longer feasible” to spend long periods of time away from his Sydney home.
Morkel, who played 247 times for South Africa across formats, joined Surrey in 2018 after his international retirement and made an immediate impact as his 59 County Championship wickets helped the club to their first title since 2002. He took a further 44 Championship wickets in a disappointing 2019 season.
This summer, his arrival in the UK was delayed by international travel restrictions, and when he did arrive, he bowled only 14 overs in his single Bob Willis Trophy appearance before treading on a stray ball in the outfield before Surrey’s fixture against Kent. He required an operation on his ankle following that injury, which ruled him out for the rest of the season.
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Last month, Surrey’s chief executive Richard Gould said that the club were expecting Morkel to return as an overseas player in 2021 alongside his compatriot Hashim Amla, following the cancellation of Kolpak registrations, but Morkel said that the pandemic would make it impossible for him to spend the whole season in London.
“The time has come to move onto a new chapter,” Morkel said in an open letter to Surrey supporters. “The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine requirements has made travel challenging and it is no longer feasible to spend large amounts of time away from home and my family.
“Winning the County Championship in my first year at Surrey and soaking up the energy from our supporters and members – who are the heartbeat of the club – is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. Surrey will forever be in my heart and I wish the team all the best for the coming season and beyond. I’ll be watching and supporting from afar.”
Alec Stewart, Surrey’s director of cricket, said that Surrey would only replace Morkel if they could find a player that would improve their squad.
“Sourcing a suitable replacement for Morne will not be easy and therefore we won’t make a decision on a new signing until there’s more clarity on the international schedule and player availability during our season,” Stewart said. “We will only sign someone who we believe will add to the quality of our squad.
“He has been outstanding for us in every way, delivering on the pitch from his very first game and playing a huge role within the dressing room. Whilst everyone will miss his presence and contributions, family must come first and with the uncertainty around the pandemic and travel restrictions, we fully understand and respect Morne’s decision.”
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