Aiden Markram could be the answer to the Proteas’ opening conundrum.
Markram has been tipped to be a future Protea for some time. Ever since he led the SA U19 side to World Cup glory, he has been talked about as one of the most promising youngsters of his generation. On route to lifting the trophy, Markram scored 370 at an average of 123.33, hitting two centuries and one fifty in his six matches.
His World Cup success helped him become a regular in the Northerns squad and eventually he received a promotion to the Titans side this season. Despite taking a break from cricket to study last year, Markram believes he is still on course to achieving his dream.
He’s well aware of the difficulties involving being selected for the national side but believes that a strong foundation is important to reaching that goal.
‘I believe that a good game plan is what is needed for a youngster to take them forward,’ Markram tells SA Cricket magazine.
‘If you nail the plan, you go out to the middle, regardless of the level, knowing what works for you and what you need to do to score runs.’
South Africa has been finding it difficult to maintain consistency up top, with Dean Elgar and Stephen Cook struggling to find form. The opening pair have partnered up in five matches and played eight innings in this time, but only managed to score 164 runs with a highest first-wicket stand of 43. With age not being on Cook’s side, time could be running out for the 34-year-old.
Markram expresses his sympathy for the current Proteas openers and remains humble at the suggestion of him filling that role for SA.
‘I have full sympathy for all openers, it’s not an easy job,’ he says.
‘For me to say that I can just step up immediately and fill their shoes would be wrong, I believe I still have a lot to learn.
‘I’m going to try work towards living out my dream of becoming an opening batsman for the Proteas.’
Markram has become the trusted opener for the Titans and has been a focal part of their Sunfoil Series surge this season. In their last three matches played, he has racked up 354 runs at an average of 118.00, scoring consecutive centuries and a fifty. His performances were important to his call-up to the SA Invitational side, which indicates that a Proteas call-up is brewing if he can keep consistent form.
The Titans frontman remains focused on his dream of opening for the Proteas and that the warm-up against Sri Lanka helped him gain some vital experience.
‘This gave me and the young players in the side a chance to gauge how far we are off the top level,’ he says.
‘We had a chance to play against some of the top players and I had an opportunity to learn from some teammates and see how they dealt with the experience.’
The young batsman shows tremendous maturity when asked about his road to a national call-up. He emphasises the importance of self-confidence and a strong support system.
‘I don’t like to chop and change. I’ve been in the Northerns set up since school and now I’m fortunate enough to be getting opportunities to play for the Titans. So that was my plan since I left school. To not jump around wherever there’s an opportunity, but to try give myself the best chance to perform at a place I really enjoy to play. If that doesn’t work then you can make a call after giving yourself the best chance.’
Markram believes his dream gameplan is as close to 100% than it has ever been, and it is to focus on the longer format of the game.
Written by Khalid Mohidin.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images