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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Aiden Markram enjoying having free-spirited Tristan Stubbs in Proteas team

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Cape Town — Aiden Markram knows all about being “the next big thing” in South African cricket.

It’s a poisoned chalice that weighed heavily on him since lifting the ICC U-19 Cup trophy in Dubai in 2016. And the burden grew heavier after a superb introduction to Test cricket where he was the 13th fastest to 1 000 runs.

Since those heady beginnings, Markram has almost undergone a complete evolution that has him on the outskirts of the Test side while dominating white-ball cricket, particularly the T20 format where he’s ranked No 3 on the ICC’s global charts.

With time also passing, Markram — now 27 — is one among the more experienced Proteas, and can only look on as the new generation, led by the exciting Tristan Stubbs, emerges on the international scene.

Stubbs, 21, lit up the recent T20I series in England with his powerful striking and athletic fielding, and has put in a strong bid to be included in the Proteas T20 Cup squad later this year. Another string of good performances in the two-match series starting against Ireland on Wednesday, and Stubbs should be a definite starter.

Does the senior statesman have any sage words of advice for the rookie in terms of handling the hype and associated pressure?

“From an advice point of view, I wouldn’t say too much,” Markram said.

“He is on cloud 9 and it’s about him staying there and enjoying every second that he is on tour. To keep being himself – he is a bit of a free spirit and always seems to enjoy what he’s doing.

“He has shown on this tour that he fits into international cricket, and is able to do some really special things. It’s awesome to have him in the squad and it’s exciting for us as a squad to have a player of his X-factor ability, especially with the bat in the last few overs through his power. It’s great to have him around. He’s a good laugh and he enjoys life.”

Stubbs’ emergence and the return of Rilee Rossouw are a few of the factors that have transformed the Proteas T20 unit into strong contenders for the T20 Cup trophy in Australia later this year.

Each player has improved immeasurably since the Proteas were Ireland for a T20I 12 months ago. Markram believes this is due to the amount of hard work that is being done behind the scenes and the preparation that has gone into assessing the opposition.

“It’s been a huge difference to be honest,” Markram said of the comparison to the squad’s confidence last year. “This squad has improved a lot.

“There are skill-sets that each player has worked on to give themselves more options. To develop those skills that they are no longer high-risk. It may not have been something that we were doing 12 months ago and did not have those options. But now we do have access to those options because of the amount of hard work guys have put in, and that’s testament to the hard work the guys have put in, and the options they now have.

“A lot of homework has been done ahead of each series, to get the percentages in our favour. It’s been cool to be a part of squad – and it’s a still work in progress – but the guys are putting in a lot of effort to see the rewards come game time.”

The Proteas will be without Kagiso Rabada for the two matches against Ireland as the fast bowler recovers from an ankle injury. Tht could be an opportunity to give all-rounders Dwaine Pretorius or Wayne Parnell a first T20 outing of the tour.


Ireland: Paul Stirling, Andy Balbirnie (capt), Lorcan Tucker, Harry Tector, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Curtis Campher, Mark Adair, Barry McCarthy, Graham Hume, Josh Little

South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk), Reeza Hendricks, Rilee Rossouw, Aiden Markram Tristan Stubbs, David Miller (capt), Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius/Wayne Parnell, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje/ Marco Jansen, Lungi Ngidi.

Start time: 7:30pm (SA time), TV: SS2



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