Markram, all at sea, needs Proteas backing

2018-08-03 11:30
Aiden Markram (Gallo)

Cape Town - Sri Lanka has been a non-stop nightmare for Aiden Markram.

All tour long, regardless of format, he has resembled a headless chicken when trying to stand up to the Sri Lankan spin. 

After a year that saw him score 1 000 Test runs in his debut season, captain the Proteas against India and be named CSA's Newcomer of the Year, the 23-year-old has come crashing back down to earth in the most brutal fashion on his first sub-continent assignment in international colours. 

As chief writer Rob Houwing pointed out in his post-mortem of the second ODI on Sunday, Markram is averaging just 5.5 in Sri Lanka having batted 8 times in 6 matches - Tests, ODIs and warm-ups included. 

His list of scores since landing in Sri Lanka reads: 0, 0, 19, 7, 14, 1, 0 and 3

While he oozes class when he gets going, Markram has had no answers to Sri Lanka's spinners. He was dismissed by Rangana Herath in all four Test innings and has fallen victim to Akila Dananjaya in both ODIs. 

That's six dismissals to spin in six innings against Sri Lanka for Markram, while he was run out and bowled first ball by seamer Lahiru Gamage in the tour matches. 

Markram's struggles mean that there is a very good chance he will be left out for the third ODI in Kandy on Sunday. 

It would be a selection that makes sense on the surface given Markram’s recent returns, and the likes of Reeza Hendricks and Heinrich Klaasen (if fit) will be frothing at the prospect of a chance to prove their worth. 

The other side of the argument, and perhaps the less popular one, is that Markram's lack of form is precisely the reason that he should be backed for the remainder of the series. 

The only way to get over this slump is to make runs, and you cannot make runs from the changeroom. 

Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy have all looked in good touch in the series so far, which is good news for the Proteas as preparations for the World Cup continue. 

Markram and David Miller, though, are the ones in the direst need of a score. 

Can there really be any benefit in ditching either of them at this juncture? 

Markram is largely considered to be the man who will replace Faf du Plessis as skipper, whenever that time comes, and he is one of South Africa's most valuable assets in planning for life after Du Plessis, Amla, Duminy, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers, who has already left the building. 

If Markram is to become a Proteas great, which most agree is on the cards, then he should be backed to come good in times like these. 

Jacques Kallis endured a lengthy lean run at the start of his career, but the selectors backed him regardless.

The argument that benching Markram now will spare him any further agony is a negative one. If he is a future leader, then he should already possess the mental capability to get through these troubled times. 

The Proteas have 19 ODIs left until the start of the 2019 World Cup, and despite his current average of just 21.77 in the format, Markram must surely be in those plans. He has, after all, played just 9 ODIs and gathering as much experience as possible, while finding form, before England next year is surely first prize. 

The thinking behind backing Markram in Sri Lanka also extends beyond the World Cup. 

If playing spin in the sub-continent is such a stumbling block for him, and clearly it is, then he will only get better the more he is exposed to match situations in those trying conditions. 

After the World Cup, South Africa visit India for a three-Test series that is also their first participation in the first ever ICC Test Championship. 

Markram will be on that tour, opening the batting for the visitors against some of the most dangerous spin bowlers in the world. 

This, to an extent, is a time for experimentation for the Proteas as they seek to find the right balance for the World Cup. 

And, to an extent, results now are not the most important thing. 

Instead, forming a clear understanding of player roles and getting the right players in form ahead of the World Cup are the priorities. 

Backing Markram at his lowest will not go unrewarded, because he is too good a player not to turn the corner.

Read more on:    proteas  |  aiden markram  |  cricket


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