Aiden Markram will play for the Proteas, but there’s no need to rush.
Is Markram next in line for the presidency? If the social media hype surrounding this 22-year-old is anything to go by, then you can be forgiven for thinking so, and perhaps that’s not such a bad idea, considering the way things are going with our government.
But I think it shows that we need to relax about our expectations of him. Convenor of Selectors Linda Zondi was at that One Day Cup final when he scored 161. He knows. He doesn’t need to be reminded. He also knows about that record-breaking 183 Markram scored two weeks before that.
What has created all this hype surrounding Markram? He first rose to prominence when he captained South Africa to the U19 World Cup title in 2014. From there, he dominated all varsity-level tournaments he played in, including the inaugural Varsity Cricket, the Red Bull Campus Challenge and Cubs Week. He fell off the radar while studying at Tuks.
And now, to put it simply, he’s back.
He scored a century on his Sunfoil Series debut, scored a century in his second innings, and scored a half-century in his third. Then he went and scored two big centuries in the One Day Cup. He’s got the appetitie for big runs.
He’s a tall right-hander with an uncomplicated technique, he plays the ball under his eyes and he’s a clean striker of the ball. He possesses all the qualities to be an opener in all three formats. He has the pedigree and he has the talent. After a full season with the Titans, we can talk about his quality now, rather than his potential, and he’s got a lot of quality.
So the question is, should he be rushed in to the Proteas side to tour England in the four-Test series in July/August?
My simple answer would be yes. The more complicated answer points towards no.
Yes. He’s the most talented opener in South Africa, and he’s scored tons of runs this past season. Quite frankly, there are no other young openers stepping up.
But just because he’s the best young opener in the country doesn’t mean he’s the best option. And in English conditions, with more grass on the wicket and with the ball swinging, he’ll be in unfamiliar territory.
He could get found out pretty quickly in those conditions. Stephen Cook, albeit battling for form, has more experience. So too does Heino Kuhn, who’s been performing consistently for the past few seasons now. Theunis de Bruyn isn’t a natural opener, but he does deserve a run in the team, more so than Markram. So I don’t think Markram should be rushed in to the side just because the alternatives aren’t as talented as he might be.
That’s not to say that experience should necessarily be favoured. Graeme Smith had very little of it when he was thrust in to the side as a 21-year-old, and indeed made skipper a year later. Kagiso Rabada, of course, only played a handful of domestic games before playing internationals in all three formats.
But with plenty of Test series coming up, including home series against Bangladesh, Australia and probably India, Markram fans shouldn’t get disheartened if they don’t see him boarding that plane to England. Home conditions might be a better opportunity to try him out.
If he gets selected for the England tour, then I will be as happy as anyone. If he doesn’t, then I’ll be patient, because he will be a Proteas player eventually, but another season of regular domestic cricket can’t hurt.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images