Being left out of the Proteas team is the 'kick up the arse' Markram needed

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Mar 10, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG – Aiden Markram has acknowledged that being left out of the national team has been the “kick up the arse,” he needed after life as a professional cricketer had become too easy.

Markram started playing again two weeks ago, having missed two months of the season after fracturing a finger during the first Test against England at the end of December. But he has not been picked for the Proteas, and he says he’s glad he hasn’t.

“A lot of things have been put into perspective. I was on cloud nine and the world seemed great. I needed to get kicked down,” Markram said at the Wanderers on Sunday evening, after scoring his second hundred in a week for the Titans in the Momentum One-Day Cup.

“I was fortunate with the start of my international career, and things have really gone south since, but I quite enjoy the fact that it is all on my shoulders now, it depends how hard I work.”

“I was a little spoiled, maybe even a bit of brat in the initial stages of my career, and I thought everything would be fine. I needed this kick up the arse and now it’s about putting the head down and working hard.”

The heady days of 2018, especially the Test series against Australia where he scored two hundreds against an attack featuring Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon, seemed a long way off when 18 months later he was smashing his fist into a wall and breaking his hand in the process after making “a pair,” in the second Test against India in Pune last October.

Markram’s overall Test record remains a good one - he’s scored 1424 runs in 20 matches at an average of 38.48. Last year he averaged just 28.61 in 13 Test innings and his problems against spin - first highlighted in Sri Lanka in 2018 - continued in India last year although by the time of the Pune Test, he was struggling against seam bowling too.

Markram was on the cusp of getting dropped during the England series here earlier this summer but the injury saved the selectors from making that decision.

Markram started playing again two weeks ago, having missed two months of the season after fracturing a finger during the first Test against England. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

The time off has given Markram the opportunity to reflect on his career and he’s aware of the changes that must be made. “I needed to spend hours in the gym, to put in the sacrifices. The focus for me now is to really forget about performance and to get stuck in,” he said.

He, like many others had a poor World Cup as well - scoring only 140 runs in six innings - and at the moment it appears that other players have moved ahead of him in the pecking order in the ‘white ball’, formats. He met with Cricket SA’s interim Director of Cricket, Graeme Smith last week and was told he remained part of the Proteas’ plans.

“But look, at the end of the day I’m to blame. I’ve been given a fair crack in white ball cricket and Test cricket. It’s up to me to now put numbers on the board. I’m really happy for the guys who are doing well at the Proteas, it’s really good to see the Proteas rebuilding and winning big series’s like that (against Australia).”

It’s not gone unnoticed by Markram, that some of the leading players in the 3-0 ODI series sweep of Australia are close mates of his, like Heinrich Klaasen, Kyle Verreynne and Janneman Malan.

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“We play a lot of cricket with and against one another - guys like Janneman, Kyle, Klaasie - and it's great to see them doing well because once you get to know the person, it’s actually satisfying.

It’s natural that it burns your arse, because you want to be that person as well; fighting for your country and trying to score runs for your country, but in the same breath it's satisfying to see and to trust that our system is producing cricketers that are actually going on, competing and winning games  in international cricket.”



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