• Testing time for Markram

    Former U19 and Proteas coach Ray Jennings believes the difficulties Aiden Markram is experiencing will make him a better player.

    The opening batsman was dropped from the third ODI against Sri Lanka after a series of underwhelming performances, but that, says Jennings – who guided U19 captain Markram to World Cup success in 2014 – will be his litmus test.

    In an interview with ESPNCricinfo, Jennings said: ‘This is his first bad patch. He needs to come to grips with the pressure that comes with that. He hasn’t ever experienced before what he is going through at the moment.’

    How he copes with this is the real test for the 23-year-old, who made his international debut last September, scoring 97 and two hundreds in his first three Tests, against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and 66 in his first ODI, against Bangladesh. He made it into the world’s top 10 batting list after just 10 Tests, having scored 1,000 runs.

    ‘It gets difficult for players when the expectations around them don’t match up to the reality,’ said Jennings. ‘And then it becomes about whether he is in a love or hate mode, if he is feeling like he belongs or under pressure. If there’s a bad energy and he starts overthinking, he could end up feeling like he should be batting left-handed. That doesn’t need to happen. He has shown he has the credentials to perform at this level.

    ‘Technique is not the only thing. He plays fast bowling better than spin but he has already shown that he has enough technique to perform at this level. Now it’s about mindset. Is his mindset tense or relaxed? If it’s relaxed, the feet will move and he will be watching the ball. If it’s tense, the feet can get stuck, there will be a lot of emotions involved.’

    But ultimately, says the former coach, he will pull through, and when the next crisis comes along, ‘in three or four years’ he will be better prepared for it.

    In the short term, Jennings would like to see Markram return for the final two ODIs against Sri Lanka.

    ‘Change the scenery a little bit,’ he said. ‘Maybe use him to open, or bat him down at No 6. If he gets a fifty in the next two games, he will be up and going again.’

    Photo: Photo: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix

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