Markram feels quest for first title brings ‘excitement and energy to the team’

Aiden Markram of South Africa has a team full of the X-factor at the ICC T20 World Cup. | BackpagePix

Aiden Markram of South Africa has a team full of the X-factor at the ICC T20 World Cup. | BackpagePix

Published Jun 2, 2024


Zaahier Adams

Cricket may be coming to America with all the positive energy of a new dawn, but the Proteas begin yet another ICC World T20 Cup with a great deal of trepidation against Sri Lanka in Nassau County, New York today.

Regardless of what they may say publicly, and even internally, the baggage of 32 years of disappointment at major ICC tournaments is a heavy burden to be carrying around.

And even though the majority of this squad were not even born yet when this all began, they are quickly reminded that ICC tournaments cut just a little bit differently, especially for Proteas teams.

“We are quietly confident,” Proteas captain Aiden Markram said yesterday.

“Obviously, it’s a World Cup and there are some really good teams here, but we feel that if we are on form and play to the best of our abilities we can compete and beat anyone here.

“We are trying to achieve something we haven’t achieved before. I don’t think that brings too much extra pressure. Instead, I think it brings more excitement and energy to the team.

“We would love to get that first elusive one and we believe that we have the team to do so. The guys are really hungry to get that first one.”

Quinton de Kock is set to play his final ICC event for South Africa. | Backpagepix

Markram’s team – like previous groups – is blessed with an abundance of talent and skills. This is most evident in the batting department.

“You learn as you prod along and ultimately in trying to become a better captain for the team. I haven't gone too far away from my basic values as a person. I keep that close to me and you fine-tune your way around things the more experience you gain.

“I have had to learn the difference between being a batter and a captain.

“And also dealing with stuff off the field, being more open-minded and calm. When you are young, you can become quite defensive quite quickly.”

Veteran Quinton de Kock will begin his final farewell to international cricket at the top with Reeza Hendricks eager to replicate his 50-over World Cup performances where he finished among the leading run scorers just last November.

There are, however, many that believe the raw power of the Proteas’ middle order consisting of Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller and young dynamo Tristan Stubbs is the “X-factor” that separates the Class of 2024 from previous generations.

In the recent IPL Klaasen clubbed 471 runs from 16 matches at a strike rate of 171 for the Sunrisers Hyderabad, while Stubbs was equally impressive for the Delhi Capitals, amassing 378 runs from 14 matches at a strike rate of 190.

Only time will tell whether they are able to still play their natural positive game when the pressure valve is turned up.

The opening tie against former T20 world champions Sri Lanka will provide an early indication of where they actually are.

With the majority of the squad having missed the 3-0 reversal against the West Indies in the build-up to this tournament due to IPL commitments, they will be eager to build momentum like they recently did in India, which led to a run all the way to semi-finals in the 50-over event.

And while the Proteas’ power rangers do the majority of their damage when the spinners are in operation, Sri Lanka possess some of the finest craftsmen of both mystery and deception in captain Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana.

Likewise paceman Nuwan Thushara will be a familiar face to the Proteas, particularly top-order batter Ryan Rickelton and paceman Kagiso Rabada, after the trio were teammates at MI Cape Town last season in the SA20.

Both teams will be unsure what to expect from the Nassau County pitch, although from the evidence of the warm-up match between India and Bangladesh played there a couple of days ago, there will be bounce and carry along with some seam movement, which should bring a hint of a smile to faces of Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Marco Jansen and Gerald Coetzee.

“It is interesting. On the day you have to assess and from there sort of develop your plans. If you look at it from a big picture point of view, it really is an exciting day,” the skipper said.

“I never thought I’d be playing in a World Cup in New York. That’s something to get really excited about.”