South Africa fast bowler Morne Morkel has announced that he will retire from all forms of international cricket at the conclusion of his team's upcmoing Test series against Australia. The first of the four-match Test series starts on March 1 in Durban.
The announcement has left the cricketing fraternity in disbelief as Morkel enjoyed a terrific season in 2017 by taking 39 Test wickets - his highest since 2010.
The 33-year-old bowler, who was part of South African squad during the just-concluded home series against India, said it was not an easy decision to take.
"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," he added.
The lanky pacer has taken 294 wickets in 83 Tests and is just six wickets away from becoming the fifth South African bowler to take 300 Test wickets after Shaun Pollock, Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Allan Donald.
Morkel has also scalped 188 wickets in 117 ODIs at an average of 25.32.
Morkel, who made his international Test debut against India back in 2006, has played 83 matches in longest format so far, taking 294 wickets, making him the fifth highest wicket-taker for South Africa in the format.
"I have loved every minute that I have played in the Proteas jersey, and I am incredibly grateful to my teammates, 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," he said.
CSA acting CEO Thabang Moroe lauded Morkel's contribution to South African cricket.
"He has been a regular selection for both the Standard Bank Proteas Test and ODI squads since 2008, having made his debut as far back as 2006," he said.
"He has formed part of the golden era of fast bowlers that have made the South African Test team a champion outfit that is respected throughout the world," he added.
Moroe called Morkel a role model in South African cricket.
"Being a champion fast bowler is one of the most difficult professions in the sporting world. It requires tremendous skill, dedication and perseverance and, by no means least, the courage to bowl through the pain barrier at times.
"Those are characteristics Morne has shown throughout his career...we thank Morne for being both a fine player and an outstanding role model who has made our country proud. We wish him everything of the best in his future endeavours," he said.