T20 World Cup: South Africa’s captain cool Aiden Markram has task cut out

Markram has already become the first captain to take the Proteas to a seniors' World Cup final

Aiden Markram after South Africa’s semi-final win (photo: ICC)
Aiden Markram after South Africa’s semi-final win (photo: ICC)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

A look at the names of some of the captains who have failed to take South Africa over the line in the semi-finals of ICC World Cups can be a chastening one: Kepler Wessels, Graeme Smith, A.B. de Villiers. As a performer, Aiden Markram may not be more than a footnote compared to them, but the street-smart cricketer and thinking captain is in line to be their first skipper to lift a senior men’s World Cup trophy, though his team’s task is cut out against a rampant India on Saturday, 29 June.

The self-effacing Markram, who has already lifted the country’s only ICC World Cup — albeit for their U-19 team — a decade ago, has been revelling in his leadership role in recent times. The 29-year-old has now gone 10 matches unbeaten as captain in senior global events, with eight wins in the ongoing event and two in as many starts as skipper after taking over from an injured Temba Bavuma at the 2023 showpiece in India. 

Add to this his clean slate of six out of six 10 years ago, when the Proteas won the youth World Cup, and fans have enough reason to believe that Markram could be the lucky charm to end more than four decades of hurt since South Africa's comeback from sporting isolation in 1991.

However, Markram has played down the significance of that triumph at the age group level in the context of the big final ahead: ‘’It's a really long time ago and my memory is not great, but you get a little bit of confidence and a little bit of belief knowing you have done it on a certain level before." 

Speaking after their semi-final win over Afghanistan in a canter, the top-order batter and handy off-spinner said: ‘’I don't think it’s the exact same here as men’s cricket, but there are similar pressures that you have to deal with being in a final. and we would have experienced that in 2014, so the bit of confidence, the bit of belief that we can take from that we’ll try use the best that we can.’’ 

Despite producing an assembly line of modern greats, the 'chokers' tag has stuck with South Africa all along — though they have showed welcome consistency in two back-to-back World Cups now. Indeed, they 'outbatted' all rivals in the 50-over showpiece in India last year before going down in a thrilling semi-final against eventual champions Australia at Eden Gardens. 

Asked whether the achievement of his men, in the larger perspective of their cricketing history, has sunk in, Markram was watchful, with good reason. ‘’They were guys that are legends of the game, legends of South African cricket. In my eyes, it doesn’t matter if they made a final or not, because they inspired all of us to play cricket for South Africa," said Markram, who began the year by leading the Sunrisers Eastern Cape to the SA T20 League crown.

‘’Because of them, we’re trying to represent those people that have played before us, so we’re glad we’ve made them proud, (and) to an extent I still feel we’ve got one more step left,’’ he observed. It will have to be a giant step in Barbados, but this South Africa looks up for the challenge.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines