With the Test series against England set to start Boxing Day, we looked at what might be the key to unlocking the artistry of one of South Africa’s potential future greats: Aiden Markram.
CAN KALLIS TURN MARKRAM INTO A LEGEND?
As the new Proteas batting coach, Jacques Kallis’ attention is sure to focus a lot on Aiden Markram, who most fans agree could be the star of the Proteas side for the next decade.
Markram has the skill and the strokes to become a great of the game, but his stats don’t yet back up his ability. Many people defend him by saying he’s a young man, but at 25 with over two years of international cricket behind him, it’s really time for him to put big runs on the board to backup his ability.
What’s going wrong? Aside from being out LBW a lot (the coaches need to do some dissecting there), if you look at Markram’s stats what stands out is his strike rate – the number of runs he scores per 100 balls faced. Markram’s figures are insane. He’s batting at a speed faster than almost any other batter in Test or ODI history.
Now, if that’s your game and how you play then go for it… as long as it’s working for you. But it’s not working for Markram. His Test average is 40.05, his ODI average is 27.95 and his first-class average is 42.04. Not great figures considering his talent. And his strike rate in each format is super high by anyone’s standards.
On those figures, he should struggle to stay in the Proteas side, but the selectors have faith as they realise his potential. Let’s hope Kallis can help Markram realise his full potential.
HOW CAN MARKRAM BECOME A LEGEND?
Aiden Markram’s Test average is 40.05, his ODI average is 27.95 and his first-class average is 42.04. For a batter who is occupying a key place in the Proteas side, these figures are not good enough. They are also not good enough for him considering his potential.
How can he improve? Firstly, he and the coaches need to look at why he’s getting out leg-before so often. Is it just a coincidence or is there something in his technique or game plan that needs to be tweaked.
The main thing (if you look at his stats) is that he needs to bat slow. Slow his innings down. Take more time to build an innings and don’t be in such a rush. Shift his focus onto piercing the gaps rather than smashing boundaries. Pushing too hard leads to frustration if you don’t beat the field and also you’re most likely to be playing riskier shots.
Look at how Virat Kohli builds his innings. Leaves plenty of balls and pushes lots into the gaps.
Markram seems to want to dominate the bowling, and that’s a healthy attitude, but batting is a tough art and you need to compose your innings with care.
And the main thing is… if you’re not living up to your potential, then you need to relook at your technique or game plan.
Let’s hope the Markram-Kallis combo can create a batting monster in Markram!
MIDDLE PRACTICE FOR MARKRAM
To help Aiden Markram work on pushing more singles and taking the focus off pounding boundaries, his coaches could have a middle practice where he faces every ball for an entire day and is told to just practice beating the inner ring of fielders. Hour after hour. That would be great practice for any serious batter to learn how to build an innings.
This is important especially if you are struggling to make the runs you expect to make, and this applies at the moment to most of the Proteas batters. And here’s the problem – they are all scoring at a high strike rate AND scoring a high proportion of their runs in boundaries.
Of course, you mustn’t try to become another player, as you need to play in your own way, but if your tactics aren’t working then you seriously need to review them. And quick, before another talented player takes your place. Have a look at some of the greatest batters of all time… AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Ricky Ponting, Steve Smith and Virat Kohli… their boundary percentages are just on 50% and their averages are all over 50. Markram’s strike rate is 64.26, his boundary percentage is 59%… yet his average is now 40.05.
That looks like the key to unlock his full potential.