Markram silences critics after 'eye-opening' week

Aiden Markram (Gallo)
Aiden Markram (Gallo)

Johannesburg – Aiden Markram’s masterclass at the Wanderers on Friday was near-perfect, and it showed exactly why he is considered one of South African cricket’s most valuable assets.  

With the likes of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and even Faf du Plessis expected to leave the international stage at the end of the 2019 World Cup, the Proteas face some real challenges in replenishing their top order, especially in Test cricket.

READ: Proteas, Australia 'shake off' bad blood

The good news, though, is that in Markram they have a player with the potential to become one of the best in the world. 

He is only 10 Tests into his career, but on Friday Markram recorded his fourth century when he caressed the ball to all corners of the Wanderers in a knock of 152 in the fourth Test against Australia. 

It is his Markram’s highest score in Test cricket, but you wouldn’t have known that by looking at how disgusted he was with himself when getting out.

Had he scored 37 more, Markram would have equalled Graeme Smith's record as the fastest South African to 1 000 runs in the format (17 innings).

He almost certainly wasn't aware of that stat - there have been more important things occupying the mind this past week - but anybody who was still questioning Markram's ability against quality opposition can now surely put those doubts to bed. 

Tipped as a future Proteas Test captain, Markram was given a taste of leadership in the recently completed ODI series against India after Du Plessis was ruled out after one game through injury. 

Markram struggled with the bat in that series, while his introduction to the captaincy was also tough as South Africa fell to a 5-1 defeat. 

"After the India series I was pretty down and felt quite responsible for the series loss," he said from Wanderers after his knock.

"My personal performance didn’t go too well either. It’s nice to come across a few runs."

Markram speaks of the "bubble" - a place he goes to when he bats where he is fully focused on the task at hand. 

The events of the past week, however, have made it impossible for the players to shut things out. 

Markram acknowledged that seeing how Steve Smith had been treated by Australian media in the ball-tampering backlash, as well as how much pressure Du Plessis was under, had given him a new perspective on what it might take to be a Test captain.

"Definitely," he said when asked if the past few days had changed his views on leadership.

"I don’t think you’re going to see anything a hell of a lot worse than what we experienced last week.

"It was a bit of an eye-opener, to be honest. There was a stage where I was thinking about it.

"That's where Faf has been really good as a leader. We could easily have got caught up in what happened last week and forgotten about the cricket side of things, but he kept us all focused."

Leadership aside, the aim for Markram now is to keep making as many runs as possible. 

He does not take issue with those who doubted his ability, but he does feel more comfortable about life now that he has some meaningful contributions against big opposition under the belt.

"There were plenty of question marks, I suppose, and rightly so," he said.

"As a batter you want to score runs against big sides and that hadn’t happened until this year had started.

"It sort of motivated me to try and score runs and I’m fortunate that it’s worked out well. As we know, though, this is a funny game and things can change very quickly."

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