Another new dawn as Proteas prepare for T20I life under Aiden Markram
Aiden Markram and Rob Walter will lead a new-look Proteas side in their first T20I match since their shambolic World Cup exit last year.
Aiden Markram is the only South African cricket captain to have hoisted a World Cup trophy aloft — albeit the under-19 World Cup in 2014.
More recently, the new national T20I skipper led the Sunrisers Eastern Cape to the inaugural SA20 title and has been made captain of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League.
Winning trophies and leading from the front – both features the 28-year-old has made his forte.
It was, therefore, unsurprising when new white-ball coach Rob Walter made Markram captain of the T20I side, as one of his first assignments in the post.
“I’ve had my eye on Aiden for a very long time from a leadership point of view. The SA20 contributed, but it really only affirmed what I originally thought,” said Walter.
“Part of Aiden’s appointment is also looking forward and understanding where he is in his cricketing cycle, and how many years he’ll hopefully be dedicating to the Proteas.”
“The SA20 gave us a glimpse into his style and his ability from a leadership point of view, so I don’t think we’ll see anything different from that.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Proteas’ new ODI blueprint looks set to steer them to World Cup
Makram led the national team in Temba Bavuma’s injury-enforced absence in the Proteas’ third and final One Day International (ODI) against West Indies on Tuesday 21 March.
“I thought he did a very good job, and it’s not surprising. I’m fully aware of his leadership capabilities, and I thought he marshalled the troops quite nicely,” added Walter.
“He made some good tactical decisions around bowling changes, which was good to see, so I’m just looking for more of the same.”
The Proteas – under the leadership of Markram and Walter – will play their first T20I match since their abysmal World Cup knockout to Netherlands on 6 November last year.
They take on West Indies on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 March at SuperSport Park, before moving over to the Wanderers on Tuesday 28 March.
SuperSport Park is coincidentally both Walter and Markram’s home venue. With Markram striking his maiden T20 century for Sunrisers Eastern Cape – against Joburg Super Kings in the SA20 semi-final – on 9 February at the venue.
Walter, meanwhile, was head coach of the Titans from 2013 to 2016.
“It’s always great to drive through the doors. In many ways it feels like coming back home, my cricket home, having played my cricket here and then all my coaching and training here as well,” Walter said.
“It’s a great feeling coming back in the gates and to be head coach of the Proteas now. Running out on the park on Saturday, that will be pretty special.”
The Windies have only won one match out of five they’ve played on their tour of South Africa so far. But the shorter the format, the better the Caribbean team seems to perform.
“They’re a fantastic white-ball team, especially in the T20 arena. We’ve seen them win World Cups and they’ve got big amounts of x-factor,” said Markram.
“We’re going to have to be sharp against them, there’s no doubt about that.”
Despite the threat offered by the Windies, Markram acknowledged that most players will be offered an opportunity to play throughout the three-match series.
Sisanda Magala and Reeza Hendricks did not feature at all throughout the ODIs against the same opposition, due to varying injuries. Their fitness at this stage is still not known.
“It is also a series where we will look to try to rotate players and give everyone a go as best as possible,” said the new skipper.
“But we’ve come here with a mindset that we want to win the series, and not just where we can experiment.”
The first ball of the first T20I between South Africa and West Indies will be bowled at 2pm on Saturday 25 March at SuperSport Park. DM