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South Africa’s T20 World Cup campaign reaps rewards of successful domestic SA20

South Africa’s T20 World Cup campaign reaps rewards of successful domestic SA20
Tristan Stubbs in action at the 2022 T20 World Cup. (Photo: Isuru Sameera Peiris / Gallo Images)

Ottniel Baartman, Aiden Markram, Tristan Stubbs are examples of the SA20 positively affecting the national T20 side.

A year ago, Ottniel Baartman was playing domestic cricket and was on the periphery of the Proteas Test squad.

He had made a Proteas Test squad in 2021 for a tour to Pakistan and at the end of last year was selected in a squad to take on India in a two-match Test series.

He was withdrawn from both because of unrelated injuries before he could join up with the team.

His consistent lines and length made him an ideal candidate for the longer format and his domestic statistics justified his selection, with him clocking more than 100 wickets in only 40 first-class matches.

But after a standout SA20 season this year, the 31-year-old has suddenly risen as one of the country’s premier short-format bowlers.

Baartman was named bowler of the season at the conclusion of the 2024 SA20 after taking the second-highest number of wickets, 18 in eight matches, at a stunning economy rate of 6.95.

The development of domestic players into international stars is one of the important justifications for the existence of the league in the first place – outside of the financial impact on cricket in the country.

“A key vision of SA20 is to grow South African cricket to produce future Proteas players and to give as many franchise players [as possible] an opportunity to compete on a global stage,” an excerpt from the SA20 website reads.

This has been proven true in the case of Baartman, and South Africa’s T20 World Cup campaign reaps the rewards of SA20 success stories.

Proteas Markram

Aiden Markram during the 2024 T20 World Cup. (Photo: Robert Cianflone / Getty Images)

Markram’s re-emergence

In 2014 Aiden Markram became the first South African captain to win a World Cup, even though it was at junior level, at the under-19 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

His majestic stroke play with the willow, combined with his natural leadership ability, meant that Markram looked destined to take over the leadership reins of the senior national team at some stage.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Proteas want a World Cup breakthrough but need their stars to fire

A mere four years later, as a 23-year-old, it came to fruition, when Markram led the One Day International unit – which consisted of senior players such as AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla – in a six-match series against India at home.

South Africa lost the series 5-1 and there, at least so it looked at the time, ended Markram’s future as permanent captain of the national side.

“I’d never regret taking captaincy for your national team,” Markram said about whether he regretted being handed the captaincy armband at such a young age.

“At the [time] it was obviously not the best series for us as a team, but if you look at it in hindsight, that’s why I’m grateful, because I was able to learn.”

The establishment of the SA20 in 2023, which saw Markram instated as captain of the Sunrisers Eastern Cape, saw his leadership given a place to shine once again.

Proteas Baartman

Ottniel Baartman at the 2024 T20 World Cup. (Photo: Robert Cianflone / Getty Images)

Markram went on to lead the Sunrisers Eastern Cape to the inaugural SA20 title in 2023 and less than a month later he was announced as captain of the national T20 side after former captain and Sunrisers teammate Temba Bavuma had stepped down.

In case there were still any uncertainties about Markram’s leadership quality, he went on to win the SA20 title again in 2024 with the Sunrisers Eastern Cape.

Through the SA20, Markram’s ability to lead a group of men at senior level into a tournament and leave with a trophy was given a fresh opportunity to be showcased and he grabbed it with both hands – one for each trophy.

A new dawn

The pipeline to reaching international cricket for South Africa existed, but it looked different before the SA20.

Tristan Stubbs, for example, first exhibited his supreme skill and was noticed at a CSA T20 Challenge competition in 2022 while playing for the Warriors.

His talent was obvious and he was called up to a South African “A” squad before quickly joining up with the national team.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Proteas bowlers starting T20 World Cup brightly was essential for the SA side

And though he struck an impressive 72 off 28 deliveries the first time he strode to the crease for the country, he struggled for consistency in the green and gold after that.

Nevertheless, he was the highest purchased player in the first season of the SA20 – but the then 21-year-old struggled with the pressure of expectation.

As with cream rising to the top, so did Stubbs’s talent, as he finished the second season with the second-highest batting average and in the top-10 run scorers.

He carried that form into the Indian Premier League (IPL) this season, where he finished with the third-highest average in the tournament.

Stubbs, from the periphery of the side two years ago, is now an integral part of South Africa’s dangerous middle order vying for the country’s first World Cup trophy.

The talented batter looked destined for international cricket since the CSA T20 Challenge at the start of 2022 but the SA20 provided the ideal platform to fast-track his development into consistent performances on a bigger stage.

Before the SA20, South Africa didn’t have a competition with the eyes of a packed stadium and millions of global viewers on it – a smaller scale and scenario than the pressure faced at a World Cup.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Several cricket stars at the ongoing T20 World Cup honed their craft in SA

Franchise tournaments such as Australia’s Big Bash League, India’s IPL and England’s The Hundred have acclimatised their local players to playing in those conditions year on year.

South Africa finally has the same.

Although the primary objective of franchise T20 leagues is to make money, an intended side-effect is that it develops and showcases talented cricketers from the country.

It has worked brilliantly for India for years, as their international-quality player surplus, ready for international cricket on a whim, has grown dramatically over the past few years.

Baartman, Markram and Stubbs are three of many examples of the talents who have been brought to the fore through the SA20 and who are ripe for the picking for the national side taking on the world’s best at the T20 World Cup. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R35.

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