Aiden Markram’s approach to cricket when interviewed reflects why he is rated by many knowledgeable former stars as a player who can represent the country at senior level for a decade.
When probed about the most important aspect of his mental approach to cricket, whether first-class or List A, the Multiply Titans opener and South Africa A skipper says: “It is about spending time at the crease.”
Markram will lead South Africa A in an unofficial Test series against India A starting tomorrow at LC de Villiers Oval.
Recently, he was part of the South African Test touring side of England.
Prior to the SA series, he led the South Africa A team, scoring 71 in the first innings against England Lions after bludgeoning 102 in a first-class match against Hampshire.
Yet, the decision made by the national selection committee to retain Markram in the senior squad after JP Duminy returned to South Africa, might just have raised a few eyebrows and forced people to take notice of the Multiply Titans’ opener as a serious contender to play in the top-order of the Test team soon.
His time on the side-lines was a rewarding experience for the former u/19 World Cup winning captain.
“I learned quite a bit. The intensity is at a different level. You don’t get as many bad balls internationally. And it is so much more relentless,” reveals Markam.
The 22-year old also benefited from being part of team meetings where the squad discussed ways and means to remove other batsmen and the game plans devised to plot opposing batsmen’s demise gave him a new insight into the game.
As an opener, the right-hander hammered 565 franchise runs last season at an average of 51.36 and struck 508 runs in the Momentum One Day Cup-campaign.
He was in devastating form in the 50-over showpiece, which included a career-best and national record score of 183 against the bizhub Highveld Lions and a match-winning 161 in the final against the Warriors.
“As an opener, you need to spend a lot of time at the crease. Your role is to wear the bowling attack down. You also have to identify which bowlers you can look to put pressure on and which ones you have to hold out,” says Markram.
“In modern-day cricket, the rate is a bit quick, but you don’t want to forget your role to set the team up.”
Markram says he has used the ploy of spending time at the crease in both first-class and 50-over games.
The fact that Henry Davids moved along at such a rollicking rate eased the burden on him to score quickly in the Momentum One Day Cup series. He reiterates that when Davids had batted 25 overs, he would have assembled a century.
The ability to spend time at the crease and to bat for sessions is something almost old-school, as 21st century batsmen like to attack and play aggressively, no matter what phase of the game they enter.
But that is what makes Markram different.
He possesses the array of shots and punishes half-volleys and long hops mercilessly, while still keeping his focus and shape as a batsman. He has the ability to remain in a watchful zone and not suffer a reckless rush of blood like many others.
“Yes, in the Momentum One Day Cup campaign, I almost played low-risk cricket,” he said.
Yet, he was not pedestrian at all, averaging 56.44 while moving along at a strike-rate of 104.31, which underlines his qualities as a shot-maker.
Asked about his long-term plans of representing South Africa, Markram says he is process-driven.
“At the end of the day, you have to be in a good frame of mind to put in the performances. You must put yourself in an optimum space to perform, whether at club or franchise level. If you do that, you will be knocking on doors.”
Markram is impressed with the quality of the South Africa A squad that will clash with India A.
“If we play at the right level of intensity, we have a good chance in the series,” he concluded.