Proteas’ Marco Jansen is proving his all-round skills on the world’s biggest stage
Proteas all-rounder Marco Jansen is setting the Cricket World Cup alight with both bat and ball.
High-quality, fast-bowling all-rounders used to be around every second corner in South African white-ball cricket. Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock, Justin Kemp, Andrew Hall and Albie Morkel all represented the Proteas in the 2000s.
Since then, there has been a dearth of talent in that department. But there is one player currently emulating the talents of the aforementioned icons.
Marco Jansen is steadily developing into one of the best all-rounders in the world.
That statement might sound slightly far-fetched, as the lanky 23-year-old has only played 19 one-day internationals (ODIs), but his continued progression in his two-year international career has been meteoric.
The beanpole broke onto the international scene as a 21-year-old in a Test series against India at the back end of 2021.
While his skills with the ball were immediately evident – the youngster took 19 wickets at an incredible average of 16.47 in the tour – he always wanted to prove his worth with the willow too.
“I don’t just want to be a bowling all-rounder; I want to become an all-round all-rounder, if that makes sense,” Jansen told Daily Maverick at the end of that tour in 2021.
“I’m putting in so much hard work on my batting because I absolutely love to bat.”
The hard work is evident, as “Plank”, as he is affectionately known to his teammates, now occupies the No. 7 position in the batting order in both ODI and Test cricket.
Jansen has quickly fulfilled his desire to become an all-rounder.
Jansen’s love of smacking the cricket ball around, and perfecting that craft, has not come at the expense of his primary skill – bowling and taking wickets.
In fact, the left-arm swing bowler has refined his white-ball skills in the interim.
Jansen made his ODI debut at the start of last year and played only three matches heading into this World Cup year. He now regularly takes the new ball alongside Lungi Ngidi, while Kagiso Rabada has been relegated to first change.
Before the Cricket World Cup, Jansen had 18 wickets in 14 ODI matches. His tally was boosted by a sublime five-wicket haul against Australia in the final match before the quadrennial tournament — he struck an unbeaten 47 off 23 balls in the same match.
His career figures read 13 wickets in 13 matches, one match out of the tournament. Those numbers are less than remarkable.
But every coach that Jansen has played for waxes lyrical about the young all-rounder’s exponential talent. Talent that these coaches are willing to invest in.
“Marco has got such huge potential,” head coach Rob Walter said at the conclusion of the match against Australia.
“There’s so much more in the tank with him. For me, it is about enjoying the fact that he has put both bat and ball performances together, but understanding that he’s not even close to his ceiling yet – and that’s what I’ll be pushing him towards achieving.”
At the World Cup, Jansen has since taken 10 wickets in the tournament – two in every match he has played – the fifth most currently with best figures of two wickets for 27 runs against the Netherlands.
Jansen also has the most powerplay wickets in the competition, with eight scalps – beating out other left-arm new-ball masters Trent Boult, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mitchell Starc.
For the most part, Jansen’s bowling was less of a concern going into the World Cup. His secondary skill, despite how much he has worked at it, was always going to be questioned given his lack of experience.
Jansen is an unconventional batter, made to look even more awkward due to his 2m frame.
His stumps are often left exposed, as he prefers to back away and hit pace bowling through the offside; his bat looks strangely small in his grip, and his limbs seem to flail while he plays a shot.
It’s hard to find a still frame of the batter looking elegant, mid-stroke.
But what he lacks in grace he makes up in brute force and excellent hand-eye coordination.
Jansen’s hard work and joy of whacking the leather off the ball came to fruition in South Africa’s 229-run win over England in their fourth World Cup match.
The all-rounder hit a career-best unbeaten 75 off 42 deliveries at a strike rate of 178.57. It was a destructive batting display in an unbelievable 151-run, 77-ball partnership with Heinrich Klaasen that helped the Proteas to a mammoth 399 for seven.
“Marco has been working extremely hard on his batting and he’s taken a lot of pride in his ‘death’ hitting as well,” Klaasen said after the clash.
“He’s been disappointed in a couple of the innings that he didn’t really pull through. So I’m chuffed and happy for him about the way he executed today.”
That knock was Jansen’s first ODI half-century. Despite reaching several personal milestones, the all-rounder’s attention was firmly on getting his batting partner to a well-deserved century.
An energy-sapped Klaasen eventually got to the landmark at a hot and humid Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai — finishing on 109 off 67 balls.
“He told me that he’s got my back and that I’m not allowed to walk off the field without making 100,” Klaasen said. “When I told him I couldn’t run, he said, ‘Fine, just give your 100% whenever you’re facing a ball.’”
That incredible innings by Jansen, and his maturity in helping a senior player to a milestone, has surely turned every doubter about his all-round credentials into a believer.
Jansen may look unconventional when slapping the cricket ball to every part of the stadium, but boy is he effective. DM