South African star Morne Morkel could qualify as a local player in the KFC BBL as early as next year, but it's likely he'll still be classified as an import for the 2019-20 season.
Morkel, who retired from international cricket a year ago, revealed last week he’s keen to play in the Big Bash and the JLT Sheffield Shield having relocated to Sydney with his young family.
The 34-year-old will no doubt attract plenty of interest as an overseas player for BBL|09, but his value would skyrocket if he could qualify as a local, allowing a franchise to sign him as well as two other foreign stars.
While his journalist wife Roz Kelly and the pair’s two children have Australian passports, Morkel is currently in the country on a tourist visa and it could take up to five years for him to become an Australian citizen.
While citizenship appears out of reach in the short term, he could qualify as a local player in time for BBL|10 if he can secure permanent residency.
A permanent resident can be approved as a local if Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association are satisfied the player is "dedicated to becoming eligible to represent Australia … and will not seek or agree to represent any other ICC Full Member".
With the involvement of a state or BBL club, CA can assist with a player's application for permanent residency, which could see the application approved in 12 months from the time the relevant paperwork is lodged.
But with Morkel set to spend five months of this year in England playing with UK county side Surrey, it's unlikely he'll get permanent residency in time for 2019-20 season.
The towering quick trained with NSW at the SCG last week and has put his hand up to play both first-class and Big Bash cricket next season, but was quick to add he hadn’t yet had any formal discussions with the Blues or BBL clubs.
“Australia is going to be home for me from now on so hopefully we can sort out passports and visas and those sort of things,” he told cricket.com.au.
“I understand there’s a process and I respect that.
“I’m open to any possibilities and opportunities that come my way because I’m going to base myself in Australia for the next couple of years or however long it may be. Australia’s going to be my home so I’m definitely trying to get my foot in the door.
“But there’s been no formal sit-down discussions about signing or playing any state cricket. It’s just been about meeting the guys and getting a feel for Australia.”
BBL clubs are only in the early stages of building their playing rosters for next season and only five of the allowable 16 international spots – two per club - have been filled so far; Rashid Khan (Strikers), Jofra Archer (Hurricanes), Mohammad Nabi (Renegades), Tom Curran (Sixers) and Jos Buttler (Thunder) are all signed on, although Buttler is unlikely to be available due to England’s tours of New Zealand and South Africa.
While most players in the twilight of their careers focus primarily on lucrative T20 leagues around the world, Morkel remains an all-format player and took an astonishing 59 wickets at 14 in Surrey’s title-winning campaign last year.
And he’s keen to continue playing first-class cricket in Australia next summer, where he could join the likes of Englishman Mason Crane, Pakistani Usman Qadir and his former Proteas teammate Johan Botha as recent foreign players in the Shield competition.
“I still feel mentally and physically that I’m capable of playing and bowling a lot of overs,” he says,
“I love the game, so I think it’s important to give back … and if I can add value by playing red-ball cricket and spend time with youngsters, that’s the stuff that really excites me.
“I’m still available for all formats so if there’s an opportunity here, that’d be great.”