CWC 2019: Where Markram turns 'Kallis' on us?

Aiden Markram (Gallo Images)
Aiden Markram (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The eventually, indisputably great Jacques Kallis was a famous case of “slow burner” in his earliest international cricket for South Africa.

It is history now that patience paid quite gigantic dividends in his case: is a discernible upward curve toward such rewards imminent also for Aiden Markram?

If that characteristic comes into play very shortly, it would be exquisitely timed, considering that it might well involve the critical business of the 2019 World Cup, now little more than a month away for the Proteas.

There are strong similarities in batsmanship between the two, even if the level-headed Markram will be the first to concede that he still has an immense road ahead if he is to eclipse or even come close to emulating Kallis statistically at the crease.

Both play with a commanding, firm orthodoxy and balance in the eyes of purists, and demonstrate levels of natural talent that are hard to dispute.

A comparative study at this phase of their respective developments as internationals is an intriguing exercise, too.

They indicate that Markram is ahead in Test cricket: after 17 matches in the red-ball format, he has amassed 1,358 runs at an average of 43.80, whereas Kallis, after as many appearances, had scored 741 at 29.64.

In the latter’s case, his glittering, completed average of 55.37 from 166 Tests only indicates just what a profound dominator he became in the five-day landscape.

But - and perhaps a little surprisingly to some? - Kallis, who had to bury some of his more obdurate instincts as one-day international cricket gradually underwent something close to a revolution in scoring rates and the audacity of stroke-play, holds the statistical whip hand after 18 ODI innings: that’s how many Markram has had thus far.

At that juncture, Kallis had notched 526 runs at 43.83, albeit helped by several short-lived “not out” vigils, whereas the current player has only confirmed in numerical terms that consistently good white-ball returns in national colours (he has played some devastating knocks domestically) remain largely elusive: 503 runs at 29.58, with two half-centuries to Kallis’s four at that specific point.

Throughout, Markram has not looked burdened by any glaring technical concerns ... which was a phenomenon barely less applicable to a young Kallis as he found his own feet against the best attacks on the planet.

If anything, the Titans star has occasionally been guilty of gifting his wicket, when threateningly set, to catches from front-of-the-wicket strokes not exactly lacking in conviction, perhaps just suggesting that keeping the ball primarily on the carpet for a bit longer before “crescendo time” might be a wise course of action.

Currently sporting a personal ODI best of 67 not out - from his last innings in the format, mind, against Sri Lanka at Newlands - Markram just seems the type of brooding batsman for whom one genuinely major innings might translate into several more in quick succession.

He is prepping himself intelligently for CWC 2019, too, by having a solid stint in the county landscape with Hampshire, and is building a progressive head of steam in the especially relevant Royal London One-Day Cup: 24, 31 and most recently 88 off 90 balls against Middlesex.

The last time the UK staged the World Cup, in 1999, Kallis (who was a few months younger at 23, then, than the 24-year-old Markram) really “arrived” as a heavyweight contributor in that coveted tournament.

He had played a handful of matches as a palpable rookie at the earlier one on the Subcontinent in 1996, without making any special impact with the blade: a “did not bat” against the UAE, unbeaten 11 against New Zealand, 26 against England, nine against Pakistan and 17 not out against the Netherlands.

But three years onward he boasted greater street wisdom and shone routinely - including as a very sharp-paced seamer - at the World Cup which South Africa have almost certainly come closest yet to winning.

His CWC ’99 batting stats revealed 312 runs (only the similarly exciting long-term prospect Herschelle Gibbs got more there for the country) at 52.00, including going beyond the half-century mark on four occasions and lashing 96 against India.

I wouldn’t write off the prospect of Aiden Markram, tantalisingly on the cusp of finally unleashing his fullest potential at the ODI crease, illuminating CWC 2019, almost exactly 20 years onward, to a similar extent …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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