GALLE, Sri Lanka - Opener Aiden Markram is looking forward the challenge of his maiden Test series outside of South Africa as well as the return of seamer Dale Steyn as the Proteas prepare for the first Test of the two-match series against Sri Lanka in Galle on July 12.
Markram has scored exactly 1,000 runs at an average of 55.55 in his first 10 tests, all at home, as he helped South Africa to series successes against India and Australia earlier in the year. But on lower, slower turning wickets in Sri Lanka, he admits it will be an altogether new challenge.
"I would like to do well this tour because it is outside of South Africa. You don't want to be labelled as a guy who only does well in home conditions," he told reporters on Thursday. "We tried our best before we came here to simulate the conditions of how we think it is going to play. At home the wickets do get lower in winter compared to summer, so that naturally helped us. And then we batted in different creases, worn-out creased and that kind of thing, to try and simulate some spin."
Seamer Steyn returns to the squad after two years of injury setbacks and finds himself three short of breaking all-rounder Shaun Pollock's South African record of 421 Test wickets. Markram says that while it is a major milestone for one of cricket's great fast bowlers, it has not been a topic of discussion in the camp.
"Dale in any conditions is great to have back in the camp. He brings a wealth of knowledge, a good energy and a buzz to the side. With ball in hand he is one of the best in the world," Markram said. "Dale is the kind of guy that puts the team as his sole focus. He has not mentioned it (the record), nobody else has mentioned it. We will keep it in the back of our minds, because it is a great achievement, but Dale is the kind of guy that will just brush it under the carpet and keep on playing for the team."
South Africa will also play their first test series since the retirement from international cricket of AB de Villiers, but Markram believes there is enough depth in the squad to cover the loss.
"It is never nice to lose a player like AB, the quality we lose is a massive hole to fill. But having said that we have got plenty of depth within our system at home and we have guys on this tour who can play the same sort of role," he said.