Aiden Markram gets some time in the middle during a Proteas practice in Pretoria on Thursday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Aiden Markram gets some time in the middle during a Proteas practice in Pretoria on Thursday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Markram backs Amla to open at World Cup: I feel very lucky to be here

By Stuart Hess Time of article published May 16, 2019

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PRETORIA – If it were up to Aiden Markram, then Hashim Amla would accompany Quinton de Kock to the middle of The Oval on May 30 to open the batting against England at the World Cup.

Showing a deep sense of altruism, Markram claimed on Thursday that Amla’s experience and composure were elements that set him above others, including himself.

“I still think that if you look at a guy like Hash, with all his experience, averaging (nearly 50) in One-Day cricket  you’d be silly not to go with him, especially in a massive tournament like this.

“He’s a leader in the side, at an event where there is loads of pressure. Naturally, I will say that he’s a guy I’ve looked up to at the start of my career,” Markram added.

Those are not mere words from Markram to try and help the confidence of a teammate who has not been as dominant recently as he has in previous years recently.

Markram still reckons he is fortunate to have cracked the 15-man squad, believing that his statistics at international level were not deserving of World Cup selection.

“If I had to give my opinion if I had to get picked, I would probably have said ‘No’,” said Markram.

“And if I wasn’t picked, it would have been entirely my fault.

“As a batter, you need runs on the board, and you need to win games for your team to make the side, and I’ve not done that in white-ball cricket.

“I feel very lucky to be here, to be honest.”

In 18 ODIs, Markram averages just 29.58 and he’s gone past 50 only twice.

He does owe his spot to some excellent domestic form for the Titans in the One-Day Cup, where he scored 542 runs, despite only playing in half the number of matches in the competition.

One of his three centuries came in the final, with chairman of selectors Linda Zondi among the spectators.

And the fact it came with Markram batting at No 4 helped make his case a very strong one as it showed his versatility.

“I do appreciate the faith shown by the selectors and Faf (du Plessis, the national captain), and hopefully at the World Cup, I can justify the selection,” he added.

Markram may be supportive of Amla’s claims to return to his spot at the top of the order, but he has made a very strong case for a starting berth in the last few weeks while playing in England for county side Hampshire.

He scored a century and three 50s in eight matches for the county in the domestic one-day competition during his month-long stint there, getting accustomed to conditions, which are very batting-friendly at the start of the English summer.

“In the last couple of years, wickets for white-ball cricket have been more friendly for the batsmen, and being a batsman, it’s nice,” Markram explained.

“In the eight games I played at Hampshire, the wickets were all pretty good. It doesn’t skid on like here, the wickets are really true and that helps, especially once you’ve found the pace of the wicket.

“It becomes easy to score.”

While Markram does not want it to be seen as him versus Amla for a starting spot for the opening match of the tournament against England, it will be the major selection talking point over the next fortnight.

Markram knows who he would pick.

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