Markram wants to stay calm and strong after punch in the gut
CAPE TOWN - Aiden Markram knows about being punched in the gut. It is a feeling he will never forget after being left out of the Northerns U19 team for the 2012 Khaya Majola Week.
Considering Markram was arguably the leading young batsman in the province at the time, the Pretoria Boys’ High learner was left feeling very frustrated.
Fast forward to October 2019 and those feelings are bubbling yet again. Only this time Markram has nobody to blame but himself.
The honeymoon start to Test cricket that yielded 1 000 runs in his first 10 matches has long been forgotten. The only statistic that matters now is that he has been without a Test century since March 2018. Markram can feel the vultures closing in on his soon-to-be bare carcass.
The brain is scrambled. The blaring Pune sun adds to the tension. Markram is given out LBW for a duck by the umpire, and after consultation with opening partner Dean Elgar, he chooses not to review.
But his torture is not over yet. Once back in the pavilion, he watches replays showing the ball would have missed the leg stump. That’s the final straw. Markram cracks. He is now the one who delivers the punch - straight into “a solid object” inside the Proteas changeroom and fractures his wrist.
Markram knows it's “unacceptable” behaviour, particularly from a player routinely touted as a future Proteas Test captain. He apologises to his teammates prior to returning to South Africa in disgrace and vows “to make it up to them and the people of South Africa soon”.
The opportunities for redemption do not come in numbers though. Another hand injury - while fielding this time - in his comeback Test against England in December heightens the aggravation. And then Covid-19 hits everyone cold, drawing the curtain prematurely on the SA domestic season in mid-March, just when Markram finds form again with his beloved Titans.
During this period Quinton de Kock has also succeeded Faf du Plessis as the Proteas white-ball captain. Equally, an unyielding franchise campaigner in the form of Pieter Malan is stoutly campaigning to be Elgar’s long-term Test opening partner.
Suddenly, it is not beyond the realms of improbability that Markram - still only 25 - could turn his back on the cauldron of international cricket for the more serene settings of the county championship.
The time spent with former Proteas assistant coach Adi Birrell, now Hampshire tactician, prior to last year’s World Cup in England had been thoroughly enjoyable. It was mutually rewarding, with everyone at The Rose Bowl more than willing to welcome the talented, but flawed run-machine with open arms.
But fortunately for SA cricket, Markram hasn’t allowed the self-doubt to completely take over.
“The most challenging part of being injured is not letting your mind run off. When you’ve got so much time on your hands to tend to, not just over think things but you delve deep into things which is often quite unnecessary,” Markram said yesterday.
“I think trying to keep your mind at bay, and trying to keep your mind calm and strong when you have time is probably the biggest challenge that I struggled with.”
And unlike in 2012 when he wanted to quit altogether, the now hopefully more mature Markram has found a way of processing disappointments better.
“No, I have never thought of giving up, but I have certainly doubted myself and doubted my abilities,” Markram said.