Cape Town – Aiden Markram is a rare South African cricket specimen.
The 27-year-old is the only Proteas captain – male or female – to lift an ICC World Cup trophy above his head when he led the SA U-19 team to the title in Dubai in 2014.
Markram is back in the United Arab Emirates desert seven years later with the Proteas Men's team now looking to challenge for the ICC T20 World Cup.
Considering the senior team's misfortunes at ICC events over the years, the pressure to bring home the coveted holy grail is immense.
Markram has had a taste of an ICC World Cup before with the 50-overs squad in the United Kingdom two years ago, and unfortunately that was a horrible experience for a young cricketer as the Proteas won just three out of eight matches as they failed to progress to the knockout stages.
The elegant right-hander, however, believes that will have no bearing on how the Proteas perform this time around in the UAE, especially as the majority of the 2019 team like Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir and Chris Morris have either retired or been considered surplus to requirements.
"The squad is different to the one in 2019. We’re not bringing too much baggage into this World Cup. It is really a big positive. The guys that are here are free-spirited and everyone is calm and that's a good thing going into the World Cup," Markram said on Monday.
"It's a different format, different conditions and we have a completely different side. Hopefully there is something good that can come from that."
Markram has been in the UAE a little bit longer than some of his teammates, having enjoyed his first taste of Indian Premier League action with the Punjab Kings.
The timing of it was perfect as it gave Markram the opportunity to sample the pitch conditions, but also play in a couple of close finishes that would have battle-hardened him.
"It was very enjoyable. Obviously different to how other teams work. It was nice to experience it. It was nice to see the conditions where we going to play the World Cup. That was also a big positive. A lot of learning took place. It was a good few weeks that I was with the Kings.
"It is also quite a high-pressure tournament and it was good to be exposed to such quality cricket and be exposed to some legends of T20 cricket.
"It can only help because all our games were incredibly close. We would have liked to get over the line more times that we did. Results always go down to those last overs - if not the last ball. It was good to exposed to that now and experienced that with the Kings because I am sure it's going to be similar at the World Cup."
The T20 World Cup will allow stadiums to be filled to 75% capacity at all the venues across the UAE.