As Aiden Markram took the reins of the South Africa side in the second ODI against India at his home ground in Centurion, parallels had already been drawn between his appointment and that of Graeme Smith in 2003.
Smith was just a 22-year-old when he was handed the Proteas captaincy and went on to become one of the finest skippers around in an 11-year tenure which lasted until 2014. Although, it has to be said, the gritty left-hander had 22 ODIs and a Test double-hundred under his belt after playing more than a year of international cricket before he made his captaincy bow.
In comparison, 23-year-old Markram had played in only two ODIs before Sunday’s clash against India. He does, however, have two Test tons under his name already having made six appearances in the format and more importantly, he remains the only South African to have won a World Cup in any age group.
Markram led South Africa to the ICC U-19 World Cup title in 2014, securing their maiden crown with a win against Pakistan in the finals. For a country which has notoriously underachieved in ICC tournaments, that win actually sticks out as an anomaly.
A natural leader, the Centurion-born man led the South Africa A side before being appointed skipper of the Titans in September last year. Being given the captaincy of a Titans outfit boasting the likes of Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar and Morne Morkel is no mean feat.
His appointment for the senior South Africa side has naturally divided opinions with many questioning his readiness for the job. The skepticism seems to be unwarranted though, for Markram’s ascension is not a short-term fix but rather some sensible long-term planning.
He might not even have been given the captaincy had AB de Villiers been fit. In fast-tracking Markram to the captaincy, South Africa are hoping to avoid a repeat of the post-Smith era which has seen the Hashim Amla and De Villiers juggle with the role before it finally settled with du Plessis last year in all formats.
With the latter now 32-years-old, it makes sense to groom Markram with an eye to promoting him to the full-time position ahead of the World Cup in England next year. While Smith’s appointment was one for the present at the time, Markram’s is one for the future.
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