How Duminy stepdown 'secures' Markram

Aiden Markram (Getty)
Aiden Markram (Getty)

Cape Town - It has been anything but all singing and all dancing for Aiden Markram in his earliest but already mounting exposure to one-day international cricket.

Proteas fans hardly need reminding that the highly-rated, so obviously gifted top-order stroke-player is labouring to match his promise with key delivery at the crease statistically.

Again well less than a wowing presence in South Africa’s palpably failed World Cup 2019 campaign, Markram flirts with the axe in the 50-overs format, where a now reasonably generous 26 outings have seen him only amass 643 runs at an average of 27.95 - well less than his sometimes spectacular franchise exploits suggest he should boast.

He continued a penchant, at the English-staged CWC, for getting “in” but then disappointingly out … quite often in the thirties which has become relative bogey territory for him.

Strictly on the basis of this consistent underwhelming, the 24-year-old - albeit considerably more nailed-down as a Test factor for South Africa - remains under sharp scrutiny, despite the fact that the domestic scene isn’t exactly bursting with truly compelling replacements for him in the ODI frontline batting department.

But there are other reasons why he is likely to remain the beneficiary of generous levels of patience, if you like, in his development as an ODI customer.

One is that he will automatically shape up as a captaincy option should Faf du Plessis decide to vacate international cricket sooner than most would anticipate; smart money suggests the incumbent will persevere at this stage.

But a more feasible explanation, arguably, for Markram staying quite solidly in the white-ball mix is that he currently looks best bet to step more noticeably now into the shoes of veteran, 15-year ODI servant JP Duminy - retiring with immediate effect - as a Proteas batsman offering far from unimportant part-time credentials as a bowler, and more particularly of the spin variety.

It remains fairly common policy for international teams, especially those not hugely stocked with orthodox all-rounders, to ensure that they boast at least five players capable of giving a full 10 overs each in an ODI, while knowing that at least one out-and-out batsman is an occasional option on that front.

That is especially useful in situations where a front-liner may be either taking disconcerting “tap” or picks up a mid-match injury; getting four or five competent overs out of a part-timer becomes almost manna from heaven in that situation.

Similarly, a less specialist second spinner, for example, is a useful tool to have close at hand in games where sides might mull feverishly over playing, say, two major spin factors but then opt not to -- knowing that an occasional option, often a timely little “pace-changer”, is available for a half-dose or thereabouts of overs.

That has been the Proteas’ relative luxury during the protracted Duminy years.

While his off-spin became gradually less trustworthy and more seldom employed to meaningful degrees in recent times, the popular Cape Cobras figure nevertheless provided plentiful contributions with the ODI ball and had a reputation as a “golden arm” for often enough winkling out potentially dangerous foes.

In his 199-cap career at that level, he bowled, even if with widely varying levels of volume, on 135 occasions. That translates to two-thirds of the time - not insignificant.

Duminy picked up 69 wickets at an average of 45.55, and had an economy rate of 5.3 with a personal best haul of four for 16 against Ireland at Benoni in September 2016.

That is more workmanlike than jaw-dropping but he has also had plenty of impactful moments, and effectiveness in differing circumstances and landscapes isn’t always reflected purely in overall statistics.

In short, he will be missed as “bowler six”.

That is where Markram comes in as likeliest successor on that front, especially given that skipper Du Plessis effectively gave up his occasional leg-spin several years ago (2015) with shoulder problems an influencer.

Those who have watched his progress since his late schoolboy era will be aware that Markram is a better “offie” than he is sometimes given credit for, even as his primary trade of batting has intruded more and more on that string to his bow in priority terms.

Thus far, he has sent down 20 overs in ODIs, generally acceptably enough to this point, including a dozen spread over three encounters (England, Bangladesh, Pakistan) at CWC 2019.

His three scalps have come at the cost of 132 runs and he has been travelling at around six and a half runs to the over, but there will be scope for improvement if he gets time to pursue the craft at the top flight in an increasingly pronounced, confidence-generating way.

It is something the Proteas’ masterminds must encourage, in their post-CWC bounce-back plans.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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