Aiden Markram must once again be handed the reins of national interest as the Boucher-era takes shape, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
Cricket sure does have a lot of idiosyncrasies. Arguably more than any high profile sport. Make a good 20 but then get bowled by a unplayable door and half the public will pat you on the back and look forward to your next dig.
Make a century against ‘weaker opposition’ and many will say just that … you did it against a poor bowling lineup on a batsman’s friendly wicket.
It seems, at times, that unless you are dominating every attack and score more than Jacques Kallis at quicker than Ricky Ponting, your weakness will be found.
It’s put the Proteas top six under tremendous pressure over the past two seasons or so. There’s been signs of improvement and rash strokes. Starts, sometimes even going big but poor decision-making, the odd technical flaw and sometimes just good old-fashioned good bowling.
With that in mind, there is no one batsman ahead of the rest who can lay claim to having his spot in the side completely and utterly nailed down. Except for Quinton de Kock, who is the ‘keeper-batsman and who already has been ruled out of the captaincy debate.
It doesn’t appear that a bowler will be given the armband.
For most, it appears the next Proteas captain will come from Dean Elgar, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma and Aiden Markram.
Controversial as it may be, Elgar and Van der Dussen, who has just four Tests under his belt, are both on the wrong side of 30. Both, as I see it anyway, still have plenty to offer in the lineup for three-four years to come (form and fitness depending) but if Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher are planning for the future, it would be better to use these two as sounding boards for the new skipper.
That leaves Bavuma and Markam as the likely candidates.
Bavuma has showed his abilities at international cricket come in the shorter format of the game. He averages just over 30 from 40 matches and his lone century came in January four years ago. His place in the side is far, far from certain with just one fifty – he has 13 50s in total – since the start of 2019. Plus he turns 30 next month and has a few injury concerns too.
He does boast captaincy credentials at franchise level and his sparkling ODI form should count for something too but in this debate, he is likely to play fewer matches in red-ball cricket for South Africa than Markram in the next four years.
The latter’s rise through the game is well documented from winning the World Cup at U19 level to making two centuries and a 97 before his fifth Test match which saw him accrue 94 runs against India.
In 20 matches, he averages a shade over 38 with 152 against Australia (2018) his best. In all, he has four centuries and six 50s. He turns 26 in October and has a long career ahead of him in all formats for the Proteas.
Markram has faced his difficulties with form – which Proteas batsmen hasn’t though in recent times? – in the past and even getting the (ODI) armband too soon but would thrive under Boucher; the pair have worked together at the Titans. He will inevitably mature under the guidance and support of a coaching staff that is steeped in international experience.
It wouldn’t be a case of doing it alone with so many shoulders to lean on and it is far less risky than when Smith was tasked with the job at just 22.
The side is different now, shorn of the Kallis’, Amlas and De Villiers’ of past, and Markram – batting at three – is the man for the foreseeable future. He is young but not naive and has already showed more than enough in the Test arena to convince Boucher, and Smith, of his readiness for the top job.
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