While he has perhaps never quite lived up to the 'new Lance Klusener' billing that he was landed with on his arrival in the first-class game (was Klusener THAT good?) there is no doubt that Chris Grant and Karl Krikken have picked up one of the modern game's best T20 players. At a time when the availability of the biggest names in the game is a major issue, luring Morkel to the County Ground for the first nine games of the T20 may well prove a very solid piece of business.
I'm not going to suggest he will get us to the quarter finals, as that will need eleven players on top of their game, not just one, but Morkel is a genuine T20 all-rounder of proven ability, who can win games with both bat and ball. That's why he now tours the world as a cricketer for hire and he has the statistics to back his undoubted talent.
Some sourpusses will doubtless suggest that it smacks of last year's signing of Rana Naved, looking good on paper but less so when the player gets out on the pitch, yet there is a major difference. Naved was a good player on the way down, certainly in terms of fitness. Morkel, at 32, is still a man very much at the height of his powers.His batting has been stifled a little of late by a lack of opportunity that I hope we can provide, but his bowling, as he showed in the recent IPL, is in very good shape.
As a batsman he specialises in the short, sharp and brutal innings that can win a game in five or six overs or less. He only has six T20 fifties, but his batting average of 26 confirms that he can handle a bat and hit a ball as far as anyone in the game. With a first-class average of 45 with eight centuries, there is little doubt about that and I just hope that we bat him high enough so he can play himself in, before needing to launch the big shots. Four or five would be perfect for Morkel, giving him the chance to replicate the batting of his IPL Chennai skipper MS Dhoni in the later stages of innings. His scoring rate of 140 per hundred balls is serious stuff and puts him up there with the fastest scorers in the format. As the clip below shows, when he turned near-certain defeat into victory in one brutal over, give him any width to free those arms and he will send the ball a long way.
As a bowler he is fast enough to make good batsmen hurry, uses the short ball well and moves it around enough to get wickets in the conventional manner. 186 T20 wickets around the globe have come at 26 each, with a very respectable economy rate under eight an over, added to over 200 first-class ones at under 30.
He's no stranger to the area, having been professional at Leek in 2002 and 2003 and has since played 58 one-day internationals and 42 T20 internationals for his country. There was just a solitary Test match - I use the past tense as the player himself admits that his international career is over - in which his solitary innings saw him score 58 runs while taking one wicket.
Morkel's signing will offer important balance to the side and enable Karl Krikken to play an extra bowler or batsman, depending on his preference. Most of all, he will bring crucial experience to a young side and his contribution, alongside Shivnarine Chanderpaul, will be vital to any chance of Derbyshire success in a format that has long been a disappointment for followers.
In short? It is hard to be anything other than pleased and impressed. When cricketers of pedigree are in short supply, we have managed to get hold of a very good one.
I hope that supporters acknowledge that and support the club in the weeks ahead.