“Markram and Klaasen with averages of 25 and Hendricks with an average of 29.50 aside, Temba Bavuma, Khaya Zondo and Christiaan Jonker have gotten opportunities. None of them, though, have etched down their names in wood for the World Cup”
As Aiden Markram, Reeza Hendricks and Heinrich Klaasen went missing at Adelaide in South Africa’s defeat to Australia, one question stood neck and crop above the rest – where is South Africa’s young batting talent?
The retirement of AB de Villiers and injuries to JP Duminy and Hashim Amla had presented Proteas’ young guns with an ideal opportunity to nail down their World Cup spots and in the two ODIs thus far, Reeza and Markram have blown hot and cold while Klaasen has failed to impress.
Even in the series against Zimbabwe, South Africa’s younger crop of batsmen failed to make their presence felt despite Klaasen and Markram topping run charts with a lowly average of 34.
In the aftermath of the de Villiers-era, South Africa are heavily reliant on the triumvirate of Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis with David Miller acting as solace, albeit seldom, in the lower middle-order. With de Kock hitting a rough patch and Amla ruled out, the onus has been on du Plessis and Miller to gel the batting together and while the two did their part at Adelaide, they sorely lacked support.
Markram, who is South Africa’s best debutant since the 2015 World Cup in ODIs has 375 runs in 15 matches at an appalling average of 25.0, a far cry from the extremely impressive start he has had in Test cricket. Markram’s success is his ability to milk the pace bowlers with ease. He is authoritative against them and uses the pace cleverly to fabricate insane shots.
At Adelaide on Friday, he smashed Mitchell Starc through cow corner off a 152kmph delivery, reading the length and simply nailing a flick with utmost ease. Markram, though, was found out by spin in Sri Lanka and has a miserable record against the slower bowlers, a glaring weakness in his otherwise impressive resume.
The problem, though, is he hasn’t kicked on like in his Test knocks. In 9 out of his 15 ODIs, Markram has fallen between 10 and 39 suggesting a trend where he gets starts, impressive ones at that, but then throws it away. He is supposed to be one for the future, the one who can make those daddy hundreds and challenge Hashim Amla for an opening spot. However, in his short career thus far, Markram has kickstarted with a bang only to throw it to the winds.
Reeza, on the other hand, is a more relaxed batsman. Experienced and a grafter, Reeza is your everyday anti-dote for de Villiers but can be trusted to spend some time at the crease. The issue, though, is his dropping strike rate even when he manages to get past a tricky early phase and score runs.
At Perth, Hendricks scored 44 in a fairly comfortable run chase but consumed 74 balls in the process. That wouldn’t have been a worry with the target being a measly 153 but Hendricks is a repeated-offender in the strike rate column. His ODI strike rate stands at 82.21, far too low for an opening batsman in this day and age.
A glaring weakness against the really quick bowlers also makes Hendricks is a suspect candidate for the World Cup although the shocking lack of options in pipeline could see him nudge his way in.
A relief in that respect, is the presence of Heinrich Klaasen, who has been inconsistent yet showcasing a temperament and flair that South Africa have missed from their younger guns. Klaasen should be a shoo-in for the World Cup and could test the likes of Miller and Markram for a place in the starting XI. Given his innate fighting instincts and ability to tackle the spinners, Klaasen should find favour.
That’s three out of the six options South Africa have tried in the ODI squad since the 2015 World Cup. That so very few have found favour with the selectors from domestic cricket in a format they have had trouble finding consistent results is terrifying, especially with a World Cup coming up.
Markram and Klaasen with averages of 25 and Hendricks with an average of 29.50 aside, Temba Bavuma, Khaya Zondo and Christiaan Jonker have gotten opportunities. None of them, though, have etched down their names in wood for the World Cup. For a country that has had little trouble nurturing young batsmen, the balance now is heavily skewed in favour of bowling with the likes of Rabada, Steyn, Tahir and Ngidi trusted to bring glory days back to the men in green and gold. They are alone, though, aren’t they?