Aiden Markram turns 23 today © Getty Images
Aiden Markram turns 23 today © Getty Images

Born on October 4, 1994, Aiden Markram has broken into the South African batting line-up. A batsman of aggressive nature, Markram has proven to be the perfect partner-in-crime to Dean Elgar. The opening batsman for South Africa and Titans was the leading run-scorer for his country in the 2014 U-19 World Cup and third overall in the tournament.

Despite all the success, Markram had to wait for three years for a national call-up. On the occasion of Markram’s 23rd birthday, Shruti Hariharan pens down some interesting fun facts about the latest inductee to the South African side.

Early days

At the age of 2, Markram was presented with a cricket kit. Markram hails from a sporting family. There was always a cricket ball at his home to play with. Cricket and soccer were his passions since. It was in 2010 during the Pretoria Boys High days, when cricket took precedence over soccer.

Markram even matriculated in 2012, playing cricket side by side. He went on to follow his aspirations and joined Tuks Cricket Academy in 2013. That’s when Markram realised his drive for the sport and pursued it.

U-19 2014 World Cup triumph

South Africa somehow falter in ICC tournaments and World Cup is a trophy they are yet to lay their hands on. However, at 19, Markram did something which no South African captain did. He led them to the Under-19 World Cup triumph in 2014. Markram, the Man of the Match in the final, got 370 runs in the tournament at 123.33. He was also awarded the Man of the Series.

Kagiso Rabada, Andile Phehlukwayo over Aiden Markram

Despite being the top-scorer of the tournament, it was Kagiso Rabada and Andile Phehlukwayo who made the step up to the national side. Markram took it in good stride, portraying his true character, “Those guys are real x-factor players – KG and Andile – and I just had to know my time would come,” Markram told while speaking to ESPNcricinfo. Markram prioritised University of Pretoria over national contract.

Upon return at the end of 2014, he continued to play for Northerns.

Mark Boucher, the torchbearer

When Markram joined the Titans, Mark Boucher became the head coach of the team in 2015. Since then, Boucher has been the guiding star for Markram. Although U-19 coach Ray Jennings played a crucial role in pushing Markram as the opener, Boucher brought him to fore across formats. It was under him, Markram excelled and went past average of 50 in both First-Class and limited-overs competition.

The young opener had told ESPNcricinfo once, “Mark put a lot of responsibility on me to set up innings well. Once I had done that, my job as a youngster was to not only get going with the bat but to take things deep.”

Captain too soon?

Prior to the World Cup, Markram was handed his first captaincy task for a quadrangular series in India in 2012-13. Apart from the host, the other countries involved were Zimbabwe and Australia. Being handed the captaincy from the second game of the series, Markram went on to win it. That was not it. Markram also went on to beat England A in the beginning of 2013. Markram’s stint with captaincy continued when he was recently appointed South Africa A captain against India A. He was also the captain of Titans a week ahead of the Bangladesh series. In the 4-day match against Dolphins, he scored 118 and 83.

The comparisons between Markram and Graeme Smith can be put to rest. Smith was handed captaincy duties at the age of 22. Since, he has taken South Africa to greater heights with 53 Test wins.

At the start of the year, South Africa were caught in the captaincy conundrum. AB de Villiers was not keen to proceed with captaincy duties across formats. He resigned as Test captain in December last year and from ODI captaincy in August.

With Faf du Plessis taking over the reins, Markram has it in him to be the ideal understudy.

Finally, national duty

After 3 years of wait, Markram received a call from Test side. He was called as cover for du Plessis who missed the first Test against England at Lord’s because of the birth of his first child. However, he never received an opportunity to portray his batting skills.

He, however, made the opportunity count through domestic tournaments. He was the third highest run-getter in the Momentum One-Day Cup scoring 508 runs. He was consistent in the Sunfoil series First-Class competition as well with a run tally of 565 at 51.36.

He continued his stupendous form against Bangladesh and what a better place than his home ground — Potchefstroom. He came and conquered. Although he missed his debut Test century, he earned a record there as well.

Markram’s 97 was the highest score for a batsman run out in his first Test innings. Abdul Kadir of Pakistan (95) and West Indies’ Gordon Greenidge (93) were also run out in the nineties on Test debut.

Bonding with Dean Elgar

Elgar was more upset when Markram was gone for 97. Elgar got to his ninth Test century 2 deliveries later. Where Markram walked back with all the applause from his teammates, Elgar was on his knees in disappointment at the other end. Before all this, the duo even drove from Pretoria to Potchefstroom together.

Such is the bond this new South African pair carries along. Speaking to ESPNcricinfo after the match, Markram had said, “Dean and I have come a long way and developed a good relationship. It was tough for him and a bitter pill to swallow.”

Elgar then went on to become the leading run-scorer in Test cricket in 2017. However, when he missed his double-century, Markram had covered his face in shock. He wanted his partner to get that milestone desperately.

The duo have been playing together since their Titans days. They had stitched a 189-run opening stand in a domestic ahead of the Bangladesh series. They continued the form with a 196-run stand in the first Test.

Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar © Getty Images
Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar © Getty Images

Elgar has played with 4 opening partners over the course of his career – Alviro Petersen, Heino Kuhn, Stephen Cook and Stiaan van Zyl. However, he feels comfortable the most with Markram. “Hopefully we can have a couple of years or seasons together,” is what Elgar wants.

Palindrome Name

All this while Rangy Nanan was the only cricketer to have his name spelt backwards. Markram joins the list now.