DURBAN – Aiden Markram was relieved of national duty at the start of the one-day international series against Sri Lanka.
It was on the back of a lousy return in the Test series, and also a surprisingly low return on his 50-over investments for South Africa.
As the likes of Rassie van der Dussen slotted in seamlessly, and with big names still to return to the mix, Markram knew that his statement from the confines of domestic cricket circles had to be loud and clear. His majestic 169 for the Titans against the Cape Cobras at Newlands, which formed part of a world record partnership with Farhaan Behardien, and then another ton and a bruising half-century against the Warriors, laid bare his ambitions.
He also flicked up and down the order, displaying a willingness to adapt to the needs of the squad. One-trick ponies always have a shorter shelf-life around tournament time.
Those knocks for the Titans, which gleaned over 350 runs in three visits to the crease, also reiterated the gulf in class he holds in the franchise system.
In full flight, he drills attacks into the ground, destroying perfectly decent bowling with an unwavering and unforgiving willow.
Markram is an international player, in every sense of the word. Perhaps he just needed the break in intensity that comes with international cricket.
The general assessment is that he is too good a player to not be in the World Cup mix. Those assessments can be well intended, of course, but they still have to be substantiated by international numbers.
After all, every top-order batsman currently in the conversation for the assignment in England and Wales is a quality player. They have all won matches for SA. It would be perfectly reasonable to take one over the other. But none of them have shut the debate with a Quinton de Kock-like contribution over the course of a series.
That would make the selectors’ job a lot easier. Markram knows only too well that he hasn’t provided the “I’ve arrived” knock in ODI cricket, unlike what he has already achieved in the Test format. In the ultimate format, his admirers are long and distinguished, with even the incomparable Virat Kohli doffing his hat at the abilities that stem from the house of Markram.
Which makes his lack of meaningful runs on the 50-over stage all the more baffling. Perhaps getting dropped, even for a while, was the kick up the proverbial he needed.
Even as the only South African to lift a World Cup trophy (albeit at Under-19 level), he knows that there are no guaranteed places for potential.
He also knows that, over the course of these next two matches against Sri Lanka, one visit to the crease, which replicates his recent Titans form, will answer all the lingering questions about suitability for a lot of people.
Including the people that truly matter. Like captain, coach and the selectors finalising the World Cup squad. In Port Elizabeth, Markram will hope to answer those questions.
The fourth ODI between SA and Sri Lanka starts at 1pm today.