COLOMBO – Sometimes in the excitement of it all, young players need a reminder of what has come before them. It is not that they lack respect for the previous generation, but are simply often blissfully aware.
Aiden Markram admitted to receiving a small lesson this week.
“I saw a stat that in the last 10 years that South Africa has only lost one Test series in Asia. That’s something to be proud of isn’t it?” Markram told Independent Media on the side of the Nelson Mandela centennial birthday celebrations at Independent Square on Wednesday.
It certainly is an enviable record, especially considering Test series triumphs on foreign soil have become virtually extinct for all teams around the world.
The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that Proteas captain Faf du Plessis has even intimated that the toss be scrapped to level the playing fields.
Unfortunately for the Proteas, they too have become vulnerable away from home over the last couple of years with defeats to India and England.
Anything other than a victory at the venerable SSC ground in the second and final Test starting here in the capital on Friday, and South Africa’s once enviable away record will be a distant memory.
This is not what Markram and the rest of this new group of Proteas want hanging over their heads.
“The last Test is massive for us,” the Proteas opener stated. “We are putting a lot of energy into it because we know it is the last one. It didn’t help that we started slowly in the last one (Galle). We almost chased the game from day one.
“It would be nice to go home knowing we had drawn the series and not lost it. Sometimes a draw in a series in these conditions is like a win away at home.
“We are putting a lot of energy into it, because we know it is the last one. I am confident that going into the next Test we are understanding things better and our gameplans are starting to take real shape and clarity.”
The turning pitches of Galle were certainly a rude awakening to the subcontinent for the 23-year-old.
Having proved himself to be more than adept at coping with the pace and ferocity of the much-vaunted Australian attack on the hard, bouncy wickets of home last summer, this was an altogether different examination.
Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera are two of the most cunning spin bowlers on the international circuit too, and with the conditions tailor-made for their art here, Markam and Co will need to show they are quick learners.
“We came here knowing it is going to be really challenging, and knowing it was going to spin. And the first Test sort of reflected that.
“It also showed that were a bit off where we would like to be. Hopefully, we are not going to make the same mistakes again.
“It is about keeping that confidence and belief, after a loss like that a team can lose belief and confidence. It is important that we stay nice and strong as a unit and believe that we can compete in these conditions,” he said.
“It’s definitely part of the learning curve, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse. I’ve already said I don’t want to be the guy that only does well in South African conditions.
“It is about getting outside of your comfort zone - even when you’re not scoring runs - because hopefully you improving every time you go out there.
“Regardless of performance, there is time for learning, trying to understand the conditions better. But it is our job to score runs and to get the team off to a good.”
The Proteas are back at full strength after Tabraiz Shamsi returned to squad on Wednesday afternoon.
Shamsi returned to South Africa mid-week due to family commitments, but will now be considered for selection for Friday’s second and final Test.