Aiden Markram is increasingly establishing a formidable presence at the crease. He should be an automatic selection for this year’s T20 World Cup, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
As editor of sister publication SA Rugby magazine, discussions around the physical presence of players are commonplace. Such is the nature of the game.
Of course, this is far less relevant in a cricketing context, but the power and presence of a player like Markram should not be underestimated.
The Markram of 2021 is a ‘beast’ of a player. A player who has also evolved into a force to be reckoned with across all formats of the game.
For the purposes of this column and conversation, though, his renewed form and confidence in T20 cricket bodes especially well for the World Cup in India later this year.
His scores across the first three T20Is against Pakistan have read: 50, 51, 63. On Wednesday, that 63 came at a strike rate of 203.
Now, watching Markram is often a nervy affair, as he has become renowned for looking like a ‘million bucks’ before almost inexplicably giving his wicket away.
The pacing of his innings and shot selection can still be questioned at times, but the bigger picture suggests Markram is consistently making incremental improvements to his game.
I’d suggest that in two years’ time, he will hold a position as one of the most highly regarded and imposing batsmen in world cricket.
At these times when the rebuilding Proteas are barely brimming with world-class players, the progression of Markram is a little like manna from cricketing heaven.
What strikes me at the moment is also the intangible element of ‘presence’. And, in that regard, there is no denying that the 26-year-old particularly boasts a physically imposing presence.
He dominates the crease, and is the sort of power hitter who you just have a sneaky suspicion about that opposition bowlers would prefer to avoid facing.
It’s reminiscent of another iconic opener and now director of cricket Graeme Smith. ‘Biff’ was another dominant force who possessed what can only be described as an aura about him.
In years to come, Markram is almost certain to also be entrusted with the captaincy, but at this moment it actually seems to be a masterstroke that he isn’t encumbered with that extra responsibility.
The classy right-hander – whose batting style is far easier on the eye than that of Smith – simply appears to have matured tremendously over the past few months.
There’s a swagger about him at the crease, and each time he is dismissed you can sense the utter dejection. It’s clear he just loves to bat, which is understandable considering he’s hellishly good at it.
Markram has quickly proven that he can be the power hitter at the top of the order that the Proteas are looking for in limited-overs cricket.
The fact he’s barely played any international T20 cricket should hardly matter. His formidable form at this very moment is all that should count.
And when the T20 World Cup squad announcement comes around, Markram must be one of the first names written down.