Markram working on his ‘mental game’ as he targets Proteas return

Proteas batsman Aiden Markram hopes to bounce back to form when cricket resumes. Picture: Gallo Images

Though he is eager to captain the side if the opportunity arises, Aiden Markram is currently focused on his return to the Proteas team.

Aiden Markram says his first objective is to get back into the Proteas team, and then he can start thinking about the possibility of captaining the national side again, a prospect that always seems to be in the conversation when the 25-year-old batsman is mentioned.

Markram has already had a taste of the Proteas captaincy, leading the team in five ODIs against India in early 2018. But South Africa were hammered 4-1 with a weakened team and it was a premature move, given that he had played only one ODI previously, against Bangladesh in East London, which stunted the progress of one of the best young batsmen in the country, and he has averaged only 27.95 in the 26 50-over internationals he has played.

His Test average has also dropped to 38.48 since then.

Since his pair against India in Pune in October 2019, Markram has played just one Test, due to injury, and there are even some question marks over his place in that team after Pieter Malan did reasonably well in his place against England.

“My main focus is to get back in the side and stay on the field,” Markram said from his Pretoria home on Monday.

“My main ambitions are for the Proteas to be the number one Test side and to establish myself in the white-ball Proteas team. It’s (also) a dream to be in a World Cup winning team.

“I really enjoy the responsibility that comes with captaincy and I would love to do it, but I’ve never given it much thought.

“It’s more like a shot in the dark for me at the moment, although my name has been put in the hat by writers, so it’s something to consider. I would give an arm and a leg to do it, but it’s not the be-all and end-all for me, and I don’t want to become desperate for it.

“It would be a great honour, amazing if it happens, but we have plenty of leaders in the squad.”

The lack of international runs in the last couple of years – he has gone 39 innings for the Proteas across all formats without a century – has obviously weighed on Markram’s mind and the Titans star said the Covid-19 lockdown had allowed him to work on the mental side of the game for when the return of cricket happens.

“It was very frustrating to miss quite a bit of the last season and the most challenging thing while being out of the game was not to let your mind run off. That’s when you tend to overthink and delve too deep into things,” he said.

“I tried to keep my mind calm and strong and the mental game is the difference between the ‘greats’ and the ‘goods’ in international cricket.

“It’s very difficult to keep in a positive frame of mind as a batsman because generally you fail more than you succeed and you’ve got to deal with that and keep positive. I try to feed off my past successes, and that keeps my belief going, but I have certainly doubted myself, especially when you’re out of form.

“After a few bad knocks, people want you out of the team and the last year was quite a struggle.”

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