Aiden Markram of the Titans celebrates his 100 runs during day 2 of the Sunfoil Series 2016/17 Cricket match between the Cobras and the Titans at Newlands Cricket Ground. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Some say his cover drive is like a Japanese bullet train, because it is always on time, and it scorches through the field unerringly to the fence. Some say his braai set is organised meticulously, and he insists on an even number of coals in his fire.

All we know is he is called Aiden Kyle Markram and he is currently batting in top gear, ahead of a much-anticipated Test debut in Potchefstroom against Bangladesh. When you mention Markram in local circles, the general consensus is he is a cricketer already showing maturity beyond his years.

“He is a man,” Dolphins coach Grant Morgan observed, dismissing the notion of young man.

“He looks very confident at the crease. Usually, when a young player comes in, you test his mettle early with a few short ones, to see if that knocks him off his stride. He handled that, and batted very well. If you stray on either side of the wicket to him, he will punish you.”

The Dolphins were the latest to try and unravel the Markram matter this past week, in the opening round of the Sunfoil Series. 119 and 87 were the answers they came back with, as the newly-elected Titans’ skipper put the closing arguments to his case for international honours.

Happily, the national selectors didn’t need much deliberation, and ruled unanimously in his favour. The 22-year-old will likely open the batting against the Tigers, and he will do so alongside Titans’ team-mate Dean Elgar.

“We want some stability at the top of the order, and Aiden certainly looks the part. We have been monitoring him for a while, and it obviously didn’t hurt his case that he made runs with the coach watching this week,” convenor of selectors Linda Zondi said.

Dolphins’ seamer Robbie Frylinck has been in the franchise system for a decade and more, and he echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“He really looks the part. They need to back him for the next couple of years, to provide him with the stability you need at the top of the order. He answered all our questions, technically. Very patient.

Composed at the crease he has all the shots,” Frylinck said, matter-of-factly.

“On that form, I would say he looks like he will make a hundred next week, too! The only thing that could affect him would be nerves on the day.”

On that point, Markram has shown his temperament already. At Under-19 level, he led South Africa to a World Cup, leading from the front with the bat. Last term, his punishing century put the Titans out of touch in the Momentum One-Day Cup final against the Warriors.

Tellingly, he tends to go big when he bats, a hunger perhaps heightened by being overlooked during his development years.

Despite scoring big runs at Pretoria Boys, the only provincial team he made was the Northerns Under-13 side.

That regular rejection has been enough for lesser players to pack their bags, as they headed for the pound and the comfort of county cricket. But, to his significant credit, Markram’s priority has always been South African colours. Even when he had to wait for a gap in the Titans’ set-up, his determination to fulfil the dream didn’t waver. On 4 October, Markram turns 23. His gift this year has come a little early, with a precious call from Zondi confirming his patience in his development years, and the avalanche of runs this past year, had finally reaped the ultimate fruit.

He has already been in the squad, and even made it onto the field at Lord’s. This week, in Potchefstroom, he will get the chance to walk out to the middle, with his parents in the stands, and his cricketing dreams before his very eyes.

When he settles over his first ball in international cricket, only he and his considerable blade can fill the expectant silence with the sweet sound of cricket music. It’s a lot of pressure, intended or not.

But his shoulders have already shown a relish for the burden that comes at the highest level.

Many say that he could really be the future. All we know is that he is the present and, on the basis of that bombshell, we wait in eager anticipation.


Sunday Independent

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