Aiden Markram’s slump in form will reveal whether he has the temperament to match his immense talent. There is hope for him in the trajectory of Hashim Amla’s career, writes RYAN VREDE.
On Tuesday, Markram was out for 17, dismissed caught and bowled, while playing for the Titans against the Warriors. It took 50 deliveries for him to get there, which, given that Markram’s first-class strike rate is touching 61, suggests he is fighting significant technical and mental battles.
He scored two and 48 against the Cobras in Cape Town in the first round. The second dig reminded of his gift when it soars. It was an innings that featured 26 of his 48 runs coming in boundaries.
But just as he looked to be shifting gears, it was all over. This is the frustration with Markram. His talent isn’t in question. His temperament and, to a lesser extent, his technique are.
The Proteas edge closer to their first Test since the England series in January. Markram was injured during that series, and his replacement, Pieter Malan, showed high levels of competence at the top of the order.
Markram hasn’t scored a Test-match century since March 2018. His last 10 Test scores read – 11,28,60,18,5,39,0,0,20,2.
Despite this, privately the selectors retain faith in the 26-year-old and hope that his 4-Day Franchise Series campaign reveals his class and strengthens his case for selection. He is betraying that faith at present, but he only owes himself a series of performances.
Markram is not alone in having a challenging start to his career. Indeed it mirrors Amla’s, who retired as a national treasure and one of the best South African batsmen in history. In fact, Markram has scored more runs than Amla at the same stage of his career (37 innings) – 1,424 vs 1,180.
During that period, Amla played in series against India (one-off away), England (home), New Zealand (home), Sri Lanka (away), India (home), Pakistan (home), Pakistan (away), New Zealand (home), West Indies (home).
Markram series sequence reads: Bangladesh (home), Zimbabwe (one-off home), India (home), Australia (home), Sri Lanka (away), Pakistan (home), Sri Lanka (home), India (away), England (one Test before injury, home).
Granted, Amla’s struggles came in the infancy of his Test career, but it wasn’t until after the West Indies series in South Africa that he started collecting big hundreds against the best sides in the world and often on their home patch.
Amla’s temperament gradually grew to the point where it allowed his talent to flourish and this, combined with establishing a sound technical base, enabled him to achieve incredible consistency.
This is where Markram needs to get to, and it may take a period away from the national team to achieve this. There is no shame in that. Alma followed the same path after early struggles and returned to score 149 against New Zealand.
The rest is history.