Johannesburg — The axe is likely to fall on Aiden Markram as the Proteas ponder the outcome of the first Test against New Zealand which finished at lunchtime on the third day in Christchurch.
Markram made 15 and two in the first Test, which South Africa lost by an innings and 276 runs on Saturday. While there was little about South Africa’s batting that was redeemable, the fact is Markram continues to fail, at a crucial position in the order, which is placing pressure on everyone else.
“He has been struggling,” said Proteas captain Dean Elgar, Markram’s regular partner at the top of the order and a close friend. “I’m sure that conversation will come up with the selectors,” Elgar said in answer to a question about Markram playing in the second Test next week.
Since the Pakistan tour in January 2021, Markram is averaging 25.6 in 15 innings. That tour was supposedly the turning point for his career, especially as it pertained to how he played spin. He made two fifties and a second innings hundred in four innings. However, since his last half-century in the West Indies in June, the 26 year old averages 9.7 in 10 innings.
‘Markram 2.0,’ who had emerged in Pakistan, had quickly disappeared.
“It’s a valid question about his capacity in the side,” Elgar remarked. “I just think he needs to stop trying so hard because naturally he’s a gifted player. I think he is one score away from turning things around for himself and the side.”
However the selectors must be wondering how much longer they can afford to wait for that ‘one innings.’ There is a sense that Markram is something of a ‘teacher’s pet,’ and that his failures are being indulged more than others would be allowed.
It certainly does appear that the working over he got from Mohammed Shami in that amazing post-lunch spell at SuperSport Park in December, seems to still be weighing on his mind. Markram’s defence is shaky and the fluency that is such a hallmark of his game is missing. “From my point of view, maybe it's the mental game that he is fighting a little bit,” said Elgar.
Following the second Test that starts Friday, also at Hagley Oval, the Proteas’ next Test assignment is the home series with Bangladesh. After that, it is the tour to England and the selectors will not want to make the same mistake as their predecessors who in 2017 blooded Heino Kuhn in a series in England and watched him average 14 in those four Tests. The person who is going to take Markram’s place at the top of the order, needs to be given the Bangladesh series to settle in.
“The conversation around (Markram’s) position has been in the media and the selectors now need to have conversations around that,” Elgar added.