If requested to do so by the team management, he is also willing to move down in the test order. Aiden Markram won’t say it just yet, but he is reasonably certain of his spot in Australia for the World Cup despite the shortage of top-order hitters in South Africa’s T20I team. And it seems sensible that he would be. To Know more about T20 World Cup Tickets click here

On the ICC’s T20I batting rankings, Markram is rated third. He averages 42.60 in T20Is, strikes at 146.55, and adds with occasional off-spin. However, he has only participated in one of South Africa’s eight T20I matches this year, was benched for two of the three games against England in favor of Heinrich Klaasen, and missed the series against India due to Covid-19. Therefore, it would be understandable if he felt uncertain. Fortunately for him, South Africa has a strategy that most likely includes him.

Aiden Markram South Africa Cricket Player
Aiden Markram South Africa Cricket Player

“The communication has been really good from coach, management team, and captain. It makes it easier to understand why they are doing it (rotating players). Building up to World Cups you want to pick your best squad and it’s important to give guys fair opportunities before you select the team,” Markram said ahead of South Africa’s two-match T20I series against Ireland, which starts on Wednesday in Bristol.

There aren’t many games left for South Africa to try new things before the T20 World Cup (their two against Ireland are followed by three in India right before the championship), but they have experimented with the top order while captain Temba Bavuma has been sidelined. Klaasen was given a chance to bat at No. 4 to begin the England series, but despite his ability to hit the ball powerfully, Klaasen may have reached the end of his run after scoring 20 and 19 against England. For the third game, Markram took over for Klaasen, and he hit an unbeaten 51 in the decider.

We haven’t made a final decision on who bats above Markram. Reeza Hendricks has done everything required of him to start the batting with Quinton de Kock by scoring three consecutive half-centuries against England. Quinton de Kock will enter on reputation if not current form. But if Bavuma is healthy, Hendricks will either be dropped or pushed lower in the order, where Rilee Rossouw made her return to the team by scoring an undefeated 96 in the second game against England. Markram and possibly players farther down, where David Miller and Tristan Stubbs make up the middle order, would be hindered if Rossouw moved down.

With the exception of Markram, who can clearly see his place in the mix, it’s a problem that South Africa may not yet be able to overcome.

Aiden Markram South Africa Cricket Player
Aiden Markram South Africa Cricket Player

“Rilee, Tristan, and Reeza are exciting for us as a team and create some good competition for us as a squad. For me, it’s just about playing the situation. If they get us off to a flyer, it’s about coming in and matching their intensity. And if not, it’s for me to up the intensity,” he said.

The middle order is where South Africa’s lineup has changed the most from the group they were a year or two ago in terms of energy. With Markram, Stubbs, Miller, and Andile Phehlukwayo on the team, they no longer have to rely on Miller to finish an inning, as Stubbs brings a fresh dimension to the group.

“It’s exciting for us to have a player with his x-factor ability,” Markram said. “He (Stubbs) is on cloud nine now and it’s about staying there and enjoying every second. He is a bit of a free spirit and has always got a smile on his face.”

The hype around Stubbs may remind some of the same hope Markram brought with him after South Africa won the 2014 Under-19 World Cup and he was promoted to senior international cricket three years later. Markram said he “hasn’t quite got it worked out,” how to manage those expectations but his advice to Stubbs is that since “it’s been an awesome six months for him, the longer he can drag that out, the more awesome things will come for him.”

That’s how Markram has played since the IPL, where he had a “decent bit, not amazing” tournament for Sunrisers Hyderabad, with three fifties in his 13 innings. “Confidence is a massive part of this game. This IPL tournament provided me with that confidence, that belief that I was lacking [earlier],” Markram said.

Because “I can see that I might not have scored as many runs as I should have,” Markram can’t be as confident in other forms as he is in T20Is. Later this month, when South Africa plays England for three games beginning on August 17, his role specifically as a Test player will come into stark focus.

After missing the series against Bangladesh due to the IPL and following a particularly bad run, Markram has been added to the squad. Markram had played 13 Test innings prior to it, scoring just one half-century and averaging 16.38 runs. Sarel Erwee has since taken his spot as Dean Elgar’s opening partner, and he doesn’t anticipate ever making it back into the starting XI.

Aiden Markram South Africa Cricket Player
Aiden Markram South Africa Cricket Player

“I am not even expecting to play, to be honest,” he said. “If you look at the makeup of the top three, they’ve done really well over the past few series. I’m over the moon for the three of them.”

Asked if he could consider moving down the order in the longest format, as he has done in shorter ones, Markram said, “it’s something I would be open to,” but that South Africa hasn’t had any planning around that yet. “We haven’t had too many discussions with regards to red-ball cricket. That will be next week,” he said. “I’ve only ever done top-of-the-order stuff but it’s something I would be open to. If there is a role to fill in the middle order and the coaches and selectors think there is a space for me, I would be open to trying it and I would have to prepare accordingly. And make those slight mental adjustments.”

Wherever, or perhaps whether, he finds himself in the line-up, Markram remains committed across longer and shorter formats even as an increasing number of players find themselves choosing between them. “I would still love to be involved in all three formats and will put as much work as I can to try and keep that dream of playing in all three formats alive.”

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