Aiden Markram Putting South Africa Back Among Cricket’s Elite
Aiden Markram Putting South Africa Back Among Cricket’s Elite. Image Credits: ICC

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During the hiatus in sports last year, it’s probably fair to say that not every professional athlete around the globe followed their own tailored exercise plan with much enthusiasm. Aiden Markam wasn’t one of those who chose the comfort of the couch and the escapism of Netflix, however. Instead, the 27-year-old used the time to sculpt himself a physique that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a rugby field or even in a boxing ring.

Indeed, Markram used 2020 to become an elite athlete and in doing so, took a giant step towards fulfilling his potential in the game of cricket after years of promising but ultimately not delivering. Naturally, it goes without saying that having bulging biceps isn’t enough to score hundreds, but having a newfound internal discipline will bridge the gap.

Markram, you see, for a long time followed a sizable list of talented South African batsmen who had come through the national team only to fail to reach their true potential. These swashbuckling aforementioned batsmen had a repertoire of shots that would make Sir Donald Bradman blush, but not necessarily the self-control that is so desperately needed in order to complement natural talent.

A Cautionary Tale about Having Talent but No Control

You only need to think of Herschelle Gibbs who was arguably the most talented batsman to play international cricket over the last 30 years and how he became a victim of his own freakish skill. Indeed, Gibbs had the talent to obliterate any bowling attack but not satisfied having hit a bowler to the boundary on multiple occasions in an over, the South African would try and do it one too many times and often throw his wicket away.

Although to give the Capetonian his due, he did end up hitting a bowler for six consecutive sixes during a game against the Netherlands at the 2007 World Cup in St Kitts. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the point given that it was a once-off occurrence. Rather, had Gibbs possessed a bit more self-restraint when clearly on top, he could have been the best of all time.

The fear was that Markam was headed down the same route with most South African fans feeling a sense of worrying deja vu after the batsman would get in and build a solid foundation, only to give his wicket away softly. It was even more perturbing as Markram was seen as the generational talent and the man to return the good times to the Rainbow Nation after South Africa’s rock and ICC Hall of Famer Jacques Kallis had retired.

But up until 2020, it was false dawn after false dawn with the Proteas set to go a generation without an elite batsman at the top of the order. However, in late 2020, Markam looked to be a new man and when he took up his position at the crease, he was now a great deal more physically intimidating.

Markram Goes on the Rampage after Finding Inner Peace

The results that came afterward speak for themselves with Markram helping SA beat the West Indies in the Caribbean and also Sri Lanka at home in 2021 with some exquisite batting. The 27-year-old then played a starring role in the T20 World Cup where he recorded scores of 40, 51, 19, 0, and 52.

Ultimately, it wasn’t enough to help the Proteas qualify for the semi-finals but they were unlucky in that sense after finishing tied on points with Australia and England only to go out on net run rate. Markram did improve his own personal record though by going into third place on the MRF Tyres ICC international batting rankings for T20s, though.

But if we were to focus on how well South Africa played in the UAE, yes, it may have been a disappointing end to a promising team campaign for Markram and the Proteas. But when you take a step back and look at the side’s trajectory over the last year, it does seem like they’re about to join the elite of the game again. In fact, the odds back that up given that as of November 12th, Betway have slashed South Africa’s World Cup cricket odds of winning the 2023 showpiece to 7.5/1.

Indeed, the feeling is that if Markram can keep bludgeoning the opposition bowlers with his incredibly meaty Gunn & Moore bat, then South Africa will finally kick down the door and take their places at cricket’s top table once more.

Admittedly, the team from the Rainbow Nation has spent too much time meandering in the wilderness but now that Aiden Markram has made leaps and bounds, the country has the leader they need to find cricket’s land of milk and honey again.