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Aiden Markram's the ace in the pack

04 February 2018 - 00:00 By KHANYISO TSHWAKU

South Africa's "Vision 2019" project took a sharp turn towards the future when Aiden Markram (23) was announced as the stand-in captain for the rest of the ODI series against India.
If ever there was a departure from prioritising bilateral series with the bigger World Cup picture in mind, this was the boldest step taken by a selection panel since Graeme Smith's ascension to the captaincy in 2003 when Smith was 21.
Markram's new leadership position is his toughest one since his successful Under-19 Cricket World Cup leadership stint in 2014. A rampant Indian team lies in wait ahead of today's second ODI at his SuperSport Park home ground.
Selection convenor Linda Zondi said they are looking to establish a new leadership group that will take the team forward after the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
The Proteas are without regular skipper Faf du Plessis, whose broken finger rules him out for the entire limited-overs leg of the tour.
"We know Markram is new to the set-up but part of our plan is to build a pool of new leaders within the set-up. Markram's been in our plans since his under-19 days. We know there will be pressure in terms of him understanding his role and also being able to perform as a player.
"We want to see if he can handle pressure because one part of being a leader is also linked to the ability of being able to handle pressure," Zondi said.
"We have Khaya Zondo who's captained South Africa A and senior guys we could have turned to. When you look at the role of the senior players, while we're looking at Vision 2019, it's important to look at these guys because they do have these leadership qualities. It can only be beneficial for us to see what Markram can do. It's a huge opportunity for us to move forward. It's a sign of planning ahead from the Proteas."
Markram moves from the Durban frying pan to the Pretoria fire as India hold a crucial 1-0 lead in the six-match series.
India captain Virat Kohli has played an indirect role in eliminating two of South Africa's crack limited-overs batsmen from a series he's desperate to win.
AB de Villiers, who should be back for Saturday's fourth ODI, mangled his digit when he took a sharp catch off Kohli in the first innings of the infamous Wanderers test. Du Plessis broke his finger when he dropped Kohli on nought on Thursday.
Kohli capitalised on his fortune to compile not only his 33rd ODI ton, but his 20th in a chase, his 18th in a successful hunt and his first in South Africa.
Markram said he'll move up to number three, placing pressure on JP Duminy to get the best out of the middle-order.
Farhaan Behardien returned to the squad and is probably the best bet to slot in at number five where he should be separating southpaws Duminy and David Miller. They struggled against Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal (20-0-79-5).
An even more audacious decision would be to give Zondo or Heinrich Klaasen a debut in the pressurised cauldron of chasing a series.
"It would make sense for me to go to number three having spent most of my career opening. From three onwards, we're not 100% sure and that selection meeting still needs to take place but it would make sense for me to move to first drop because there's plenty of experience in David and JP," Markram said.
"I don't necessarily see the spin issue as a problem. It was just one game and I believe our middle-order has quality batsmen. It's about taking responsibility even though we've had to adjust our game plans. I don't think there's a need to adjust the batting line-up.
"Players need to develop nice and strong game plans."..

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