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Cricket | South Africa

Aiden Markram © Gallo Images

'Age should not count against Markram'

“Cricket is not like a government job where retirement age is fixed at 60,” said Virender Sehwag, a former Indian cricketer. “A cricketer can retire at 30 or 60; it’s up to the player.”

Sure, but neither should a cricketer have to reach the legal drinking age before he is introduced into test cricket. 

Age can easily become a detractor, and several critics doubt the readiness of a player to represent his country because he is deemed too young or too inexperienced.

If age was the defining factor, Graeme Pollock would not have blasted two centuries in the 1963/64-season against Australia, because he was 19.

The second of those centuries at the Adelaide Oval left such an indelible mark on the Australian commentators that a teary-eyed Bill O’ Reilly described his massacre of Richie Benaud and Company as “murder in the cathedral”.

Barry Richards only made his debut for South Africa in 1970 at age 24. An astute cricket historian, Michael Owen-Smith, said Richards could have represented the national team in 1965 already.

When the question about the presence of the 22-year-old Aiden Markram in the queue for the South African team, is discussed, the matter of age will be a factor.

Graeme Smith was 22 years and 44 days old when he started captaining South Africa.

Shortly afterwards, he hammered 277 and 259 in tests in England. Nasser Hussain might still be shaking his head in disbelief.


Herschelle Gibbs, a former South African opener, says he would give Stephen Cook another chance to play in at least one or two tests for the Proteas on the England tour.

Gibbs, without directly discarding the credentials of Markram, a former South African Under-19 captain who struck 565 runs this season in Sunfoil Series cricket at an average of 51.36 and 508 runs in the 50-over showpiece at an average of 56.44, warns against the tough conditions in England.

“You have to possess a superb technique to deal with the swinging delivery and the bounce.

“Right now Stephen is moving just before the point of delivery. But is there any more experienced opener in the country than him? He has struck 40 first-class centuries and more than 10 000 runs. I will definitely give him another test or two to represent South Africa.”

Cook has been out of favour after only managing 57 runs in his last seven innings, despite starting his test career brightly and blasting three centuries and two fifties in his 11-test career.

“If I was Stephen, I would work on my set-up and my technique and get ready to produce the goods in England,” Gibbs said.

Mark Boucher, successful coach of the Multiply Titans that bagged two trophies in 2016/2017, says the question about the readiness of the Multiply Titans’ opener Markram is a tough one.

“If we were living in an ideal world, I would give him another season in first-class cricket. But he is strong mentally and technically he is well equipped to handle the swinging ball. He is very well balanced. He is very intelligent and has the ability to work on his strengths and weaknesses.

“Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers had tough introductions to test cricket, and look how they transformed themselves.

“If Aiden is thrust in at the deep end, he is able to handle it,” he said.


Boucher also spoke forthrightly about the readiness of Lungi Ngidi, another Multiply Titans stalwart, for test cricket.

“He has got it (the talent). He is good enough to play for South Africa. Yet Lungi is very young still and needs to develop physically. He must strengthen up. This off-season will be pivotal for Lungi to get even more wiry, because he can add 5 kilometre per hour of steam into his bowling. Lungi is keen and he knows the door is slightly open for him.

“When working in the off-season, he will be able to bowl longer spells. And if he uses the off-season and looks after his body, we know that he will be earmarked to open the bowling with Kagiso Rabada. And what an exciting prospect that will be for South African cricket,” Boucher added.


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