A year ago, Aiden Markram was thrust into a captaincy role for the ODI series against India. Still relatively inexperienced at the international level, Markram was brutally exposed as India thumped South Africa in the ODI series in their own backyard.

An under-19 World Cup winning captain, Markram was always earmarked as a future leader, but by handing him a role he wasn’t prepared for at the highest level, the Proteas shattered his confidence. Something else also played a role in his quick jolt to reality after a honeymoon period in international cricket – his frailties against spin.

Super consistent at the domestic level, Markram was struggling to match his own form for South Africa and even if there were the odd sparks of brilliance like in the Test series against Australia last year, consistency deserted him. He was dropped from the ODI side a while back and needed an extraordinary run of form in the domestic One Day Cup to force his way into the World Cup team.

But in England, Markram disappointed again. This has been the tale of Markram’s career so far. Standout domestic performances overshadowed by inconsistent return in national colours.

As the India Test series beckons, Markram remains a key figure in South Africa’s plans. He is set to open the innings alongside Dean Elgar and was sent on a spin camp to India and later involved in the South Africa A matches against India A.

Markram was dismissed cheaply in either innings in the first unofficial Test for South Africa A at Trivandrum but made a spectacular 161 at Mysore in the following unofficial Test. What’s more heartening is that he was dismissed by pacers in all three innings and survived a potent spin attack that India A possess.

Markram, a tall batsman with a solid technique, was brutally exposed in the series against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, the only Test series he has played outside South Africa. He made scores of 0, 19, 7 and 14 on that tour and was dismissed by Rangana Herath all four times. In the ODIs, he continued his wretched form and made 0, 3 and 20 in the three matches he played – this time worked over each time by Akila Dananjaya, the ball turning away from Markram on each occasion.

This has been an Achilles Heel for Markram, one of the most solid next-gen South African batsmen. On this India tour so far, he has encountered Jalaj Saxena, Kuldeep Yadav and Shahbaz Nadeem, all high-quality left-arm spinners. However, he has countered them with much more confidence than before.

In the warm-up game against Board President’s XI, Markram retired hurt after making a 100 at a strike rate greater than 80 on day two. The opener is certainly in a fine frame of mind ahead of the Test series. In Ravindra Jadeja, he has a potent threat awaiting him, but Markram seems to be ready for the big challenge ahead.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Gianluigi Guercia