Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Potential Test Captains: Aiden Markram

As recently as 12 months ago, Aiden Markram would have been maybe the prohibitive favourite in the race to Test Captain of the South African national team, but the last year has seen him deal with various issues. There are three things you could argue that the captain of a team in a sport as captain-dependent as cricket cannot be:
 - Injured
 - Ill-disciplined
 - Out of form

Unfortunately for Markram, he has displayed each of these disqualifying factors to various degrees recently. It should be remembered that while Markram may indeed have been dropped anyway from the third Test vs India due to his poor form, he wasn't even considered for selection because he had broken his hand. And by that I mean he smashed his hand against an unnamed object following his dismissal in the second test vs India. Not exactly the sort of origin story which is often seen in many captain's autobiographies, Worse, still, the reason he broke his hand was out of frustration due to a run of bad form which has now gone on two years. By the time Markram laces up his gear again in Test cricket, it would have been two years without a Test century. His Test average has plummeted form over 50 to 38. Having scored exactly 1000 runs in his first ten Tests, Markram has since only scored 424 in the next ten. His productivity has basically dropped by half. In fact, a distinct line can be drawn between the two halves of Markram's early career. Up until the end of the Australia series, he looked a world-beater, the best young batsman in world cricket and a mainstay of the national team for a decade plus. Then there is literally every series since then, with specific reference to the Asian series South Africa have played since.

Aiden Markram's performance comparison

2017/18 season
Post 2017/2018
He's basically gone from one of the greatest batsmen of all time, to a handy pinch-hitter. One would think that this level of play is unsustainable and he would eventually rise back to a median somewhere in-between the giant of 2017/18 and the lower order batsman we've seen at every point since, but giving him the captain's armband would likely make that progression that much harder as he would have an elevated sense of responsibility. 

The case for Aiden Markram

This not to say that there is no case for Markram to be made captain, of course. At 26, he is the youngest of the proposed replacements, and this means he'd provide the most runway before CSA would have to go through the process of selecting a captain again, logically. He is also the only captain in South African cricket history to have won a World Cup, a not insgnificant claim to fame when the country is this starved of successful leaders. Finally, you could very well argue that while his stats have not looked particularly pleasing in recent history, he is a very competent batsman and clearly in the selectors long-term plans, which should allow him a level of job security necessary to have a voice at the job. Aiden Markram would not be ZA Cricket's choice for the job, but he does have a rather compelling argument. 

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