Not very long ago, Aiden Markram had the world at his feet. Scores of 97 and 143 in his first two Tests had made the world go gaga over him. However, it did not take long for Markram to realise the harsh realities of the game.
Just 4 months after his international debut, Markram was given the responsibility to lead South Africa. With Faf du Plessis injured, Markram was handed the reigns of the team. The appointment drew comparisons with none other than Graeme Smith. However, the 23-year old, who was the captain and the Man of the Tournament when South Africa won the Under-19 World Cup in 2014, failed to live up to the hype.
Under his captaincy, South Africa’s lost their first-ever bilateral series against India at home. The Proteas were thoroughly outplayed in the six-game ODI series. And the annihilation came to an end on Friday with a crushing eight wicket loss in the last ODI. The Proteas lost the series 5-1.
The series was seen as the first step towards the World Cup preparations. However, it did not pan out on the expected lines for the hosts. But Markram insisted that his side were not embarrassed and merely disappointed after the heavy loss. The stand-in skipper admitted that the series loss was a setback to the World Cup preparations. At the same time, he also said that the timing of the loss will not hurt the team much.
“Obviously we have taken a step back, because results-wise and performance-wise we haven’t moved forward,” said Markram. “But having said that I’d rather it happened now than two or three months before the World Cup starts or during the World Cup.
“So there are lessons we can learn, but the most important thing is not to make the same mistakes going forward. I did feel during the series that we made mistakes from previous games, so we didn’t learn well from our lessons. It’s crucial now that we dig into what went wrong and rectify it so it doesn’t happen again in the future,” he added.
Batting failure was the constant feature for the hosts in the series. On the other hand, India’s top-order laid the foundation for a good total in every match. Similarly, the Proteas bowlers also showed a lack of fight unlike their Indian counterparts who never allowed the hosts to get off the hook.
“If you look at how they set their innings up, there was always one of the top three in for the 40th over, and that’s crucial in this format,” noted Markram. “Their bowlers controlled the middle period well – they’ve got two good quality spinners – and they strike up front with the new ball. They tick all their boxes and we’re going to work hard to do the same thing.”
Markram had a forgettable series with the bat too. The right-handed batsman managed to score just 127 runs in 6 outings. Head coach Ottis Gibson had said that the burden of captaincy had affected Markram and the skipper also agreed to it.
“He’s got full right to say that just by watching with the naked eye,” said Markram. “I wasn’t playing the usual game I do play. We did chat about it and today when I was batting I felt in a more comfortable space. I felt I was structuring my innings how I would if I was batting in a franchise game. It’s very late in the series but it’s a positive that I was able to overcome that obstacle. It’s moving in the right direction I suppose.”
Markram also had a word of praise for his Indian counterpart Virat Kohli. The India skipper scored a staggering 558 runs in the series to lead his team to a historic win.
“His desperation to win games for his side is massive, and that’s why he conducts himself like he does,” said Markram. “It’s all from a competitive point of view, it’s nothing malicious. That desperation is shown when he bats – he doesn’t just get his side close to the line, he gets them over it, as we saw again tonight. So there are a lot of things I can learn from him. There are a lot of things I can learn from their team as a whole, and from us as a whole. I’m taking little pieces from here and there.”
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