“The 24-year-old has made it in the nick of time and entered back in the World Cup fray. He looked down and out a couple of weeks back when he was left out of the first three ODIs against Sri Lanka. However, a statement has been made and now, it’s up to the selectors”
Aiden Markram is a fine talent and everyone across the world would acknowledge that. 1000 Test runs in a debut season, gaining some significant context in South African cricket very early in his career.
An average of 43.20 in the longest format is an excellent stat while opening the batting in the last couple of years when batting has become a lot more difficult. However, put all this in context with an ODI average of 25.44 (before this Sri Lanka series) and just one fifty across 16 innings. You’d certainly term him a Test specialist but Markram is far from that. He has shown that he possesses all the talent in the world and can put things right if he attains that consistency.
About a year ago, Virat Kohli was in the complete awe of a certain Aiden Markram. South Africa’s Under-19 World Cup winning skipper (of the 2014 edition) seemed to be having a dream debut season, especially in Test cricket. The Indian skipper constantly took to Twitter to applaud Markram while the latter was playing a high-intensity Test series against Australia and dominating the series.
He scored exactly 1000 runs in his debut season as he averaged 55.56 across 10 Test matches. He played ODIs as well but couldn’t really hit the mark. In seven One-Day games, he scored 193 runs at an average of 27.57. However, the selectors were highly impressed with him and awarded him with the ODI captaincy when Faf du Plessis was ruled out with an injury against India. It was just his 3rd ODI when Markram led South Africa for the first time.
It was a debut season that players strive for and dream of and Markram had it all. But his decline started, first in Test cricket and his ODI career which never took off came to a standstill as well. He struggled to lay bat on ball in Sri Lanka, found it tough in the home series as well as he could muster a mere three half-centuries across five Test matches.
He was then left out of South Africa’s ODI plans and things looked pretty bleak for him as far as his World Cup chances were concerned. The Proteas opted for the likes of Reeza Hendricks and Rassie Van der Dussen in their white-ball line-ups as Markram had to go back to domestic cricket.
It’s not that the Centurion-born batsman had a torrid time in ODI cricket. In the 18 innings he’s played, he has registered just four single-digit scores. Despite this, he has scored just a couple of half-centuries with one coming in the final ODI against Sri Lanka on Saturday (March, 16). It was just about throwing starts away and just not kicking on after getting set.
But maybe his exclusion from the ODI side might’ve done more good than bad. Look at what he’s done after going back to domestic cricket. In the Momentum One-Day Cup (South Africa’s domestic 50-over competition), he has dominated like never before. Markram took the tournament by storm in the three games he played for the Titans.
Batting at No. 5, he struck a fabulous 169 (after coming in at 22/3 which turned into 31/5) as he took the Titans to a score of 320 in their 50 overs. 15 fours, 7 sixes, a strike-rate of 131.00 – it was a splendid innings. Consistency was something that Markram’s white-ball game lacked but in the next couple of games, he corrected that as well (at least for now). He struck another ton (139) and backed these couple of tons with a blazing 85 off 43 balls as he helped Titans to chase down 182 in 21 overs.
Three innings, top-scoring three times, dominating each innings and sending a message to the selectors. 393 runs in 3 innings are no mean feat, even if it’s at the domestic level. Markram had sent a statement after he was dropped from South Africa’s ODI team earlier in the year. He had to make it to the squad once again when the selectors sat to pick the team for the fourth and fifth ODIs against Sri Lanka.
Markram had the scores behind him in domestic cricket but he still had to make the opportunity count in the Proteas colours. He acknowledged the fact that his numbers weren’t good enough and he had to be left out. “The numbers just weren’t good enough. Since then, it’s been a case of trying to take selection out of my mind. I’ve been with the Titans for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve just been trying to invest my efforts and energy into that team,” Markram had said after he was picked for the final two ODIs against Sri Lanka.
In the fourth ODI, South Africa were chasing 190 and the 24-year-old looked pretty comfortable in the middle. He was timing the ball well and looked in good touch. He had walked to bat at No. 3 after Reeza Hendricks’ poor run continued at the top of the order. However, as was the case in many of his ODI innings, he threw it away once again. He made a fluent and an eye-catching 32-ball 29.
But he corrected everything in the last ODI. Reeza Hendricks was dropped and Markram was elevated to open the batting. Chasing 226, for a change, South Africa lost Quinton de Kock pretty early. But it was Markram who took charge of the chase as he played some delightful strokes on his way to 67. Floodlights failure meant that the game couldn’t resume but Markram’s second ODI fifty ensured South Africa clean swept the series via Duckworth-Lewis.
The World Cup is on everyone’s horizon at the moment. And the 24-year-old batsman impressed in South Africa’s final ODI before the World Cup, doing no harm to his chances. He put to rest his sling of middling scores in white-ball cricket as he roared on into form on the back of domestic cricket. He has now given the selectors a nice headache and he may well be on that flight to England for the showpiece event.
Markram has shown that he can adapt and even bat in the middle-order as and when required. Those three innings he played in the domestic circuit would’ve done a world of good to him. It has not only instilled confidence in Markram but also the selectors as it showed them that the right-hander is still alive and has the ability to make an impact in white-ball cricket as well.
The 24-year-old has made it in the nick of time and entered back in the World Cup fray. He looked down and out a couple of weeks back when he was left out of the first three ODIs against Sri Lanka. However, a statement has been made and now, it’s up to the selectors.