CENTURION – There was a time not so long ago that the thought of playing for South Africa gave Aiden Markram, the “heebie jeebies”.
Thankfully, eight matches into his international career, those days are behind him.
Markram cut a relaxed figure yesterday as he faced the media after the surprising decision by Linda Zondi and his national selection panel to make the 23-year-old the Proteas captain in place of the injured Faf du Plessis for the remaining five ODIs against India.
“There were a few nerves (on Saturday) morning before training, but that’s eased out,” said Markram.
Captaincy is of course not new to Markram, who famously led the South African Under-19 team – that included Kagiso Rabada and Andile Phehlukwayo to the world title in 2014.
He was made captain of the Titans’ four-day team at the start of the summer, and his appointment for the remainder of the series against Virat Kohli’s side is part of a systematic handover that has seen him previously captain the South Africa A team in England last year and an SA Invitational team earlier this summer against Bangladesh, which included AB de Villiers and JP Duminy.
At the Titans he captained senior players like Heino Kuhn, Henry Davids and Farhaan Behardien under the watch of coach Mark Boucher.
Good morning and welcome to coverage of the 2nd @Momentum_za One-Day International between SA and India from Centurion. The tourists have won the toss and bowl first. Here's a look at the SA team. A new captain and debutant for the hosts today #ProteaFire #SAvIND #MomentumODI pic.twitter.com/Ys5T71tHwh
“There are senior players we could have gone to, but it will only be beneficial for us to see what he can do. It’s a sign of planning ahead,” said Zondi.
Du Plessis, who injured his finger attempting to catch Kohli during Thursday’s opening match in Durban, was a keen and involved participant at the Proteas’ training at SuperSport Park yesterday.
“Faf has taken me under his wing since I’ve been in the environment,” said Markram.
“We’ve spoken quite a lot, this morning again we spent a lot of time together at training, discussing plans, how he goes about things, him giving me some words of advice... I’ll keep him close to me.
“Luckily he’ll be here throughout the game, I’ll keep sending messages on and off the field asking for advice or any hints... but at the end of the day, it’s my decision to make on the field.
“There is plenty of experience in the squad, so I’ll also consult with senior players.”
There is no hiding from the fact that Markram’s appointment is part of a wider plan with an eye on the future, especially beyond the 2019 World Cup, when it is expected that a number of the current senior players will either hang up their boots, or drastically reduce their availability at international level.
Zondi reiterated that Markram’s appointment was for the remaining ODIs against India only, and that the national team’s vice-captaincy across all formats, which is officially vacant at the moment, had not been discussed.