South Africa stand-in skipper Aiden Markram believes the soon-to-retire wicketkeeper-batter Quinton de Kock is a “free-spirited guy” who should be allowed “to fly”. The explosive lefthander smashed 174 off 140 balls, his third century in five innings, to propel South Africa to 382/5 against Bangladesh before the Proteas sealed a thumping 149-run win on Tuesday. De Kock’s century was complemented by fifties from Heinrich Klaasen (90; 49b) and Markram (60; 69b) as South Africa racked up 144 in the final 10 overs.
“We all know Quinton to be the free-spirited guy that he is, but he actually has a fantastic cricket brain on him,” Markram told reporters in the post-match interaction.
De Kock, who had earlier said he would retire from the ODIs after the World Cup, has now overtaken Virat Kohli (354) to be the leading run-scorer with 407 runs.
“And then you never want to clip his wings, really. You just want to let him fly. He structures it the exact way he feels (the) need, and we back that completely as a unit,” Markram added.
Continuing his rich praise on De Kock, Markram further said: “He assesses conditions really well and communicates that to us off the field even before we have walked out to bat. It adds a lot of value in that regard.” Markram said taking good decisions on the field has also been a driving force behind the team’s success.
“I know that word (process) is thrown around quite a bit, but that really is what it is. And like I have mentioned, for us as a batting unit, even as a bowling unit, we try to take really good options out there and make good decisions,” Markram said.
“If those options speak to the conditions, we feel like we will be in the game. If we can do that for long periods of time and move forward each game, then we hope it puts us in a good position,” he added.
If their defeat to the Netherlands batting second is set aside as a blip in the larger scheme of things, South Africa’s campaign so far has perhaps been as impressive as India’s or even New Zealand’s for that matter — two of the strongest teams whom the Proteas are yet to face.
“Peaking is, suppose, a result of playing good cricket. And if we are going into each game trying to play good cricket, then we can see where it gets us,” said Markram who stood in for Temba Bavuma for a second match in a row.
“But the things that we have been doing well, we have put a lot of emphasis on those things and those sort of processes, for lack of a better word,” he said.
‘Not looking too far ahead’
Despite being placed strongly to finish in top four teams that will qualify for the semifinals, Markram said South Africa — who failed to do so in 2019 — would not want to look too far ahead.
“I think that is a pretty dangerous place to be, to be honest. I do not think you want to start trying to do maths this far out. There are still four games of cricket and that is potentially eight points up for grabs,” he said.
“That is what we are going to try to push for. I think if you start sitting and hoping for a result from this team and trying to work out ‘we maybe only need two wins left’ or whatever it is. I do not think that is a great place to be as a unit,” he added.
Markram says there is no blueprint or a plan but just basic understanding developed in the players over a period of time.
“It goes without saying that you obviously do need wickets in hand but we have not spoken about a blueprint as a unit — it has actually been quite a strange build up the last two months or maybe slightly longer now,” Markram said.
“No definitive roles (have been) given, but everyone kind of knows now what they need to do to help this batting unit peak at their best. There is not necessarily a blueprint, but guys understand how to approach it,” he said.
‘Still trying to figure it out’
Markram said ODIs give a batters more time to think, analyse and formulate an approach and he is still trying to ‘figure it out’ despite hitting the fastest century for any batter in World Cup history in the game against Sri Lanka.
“In 50-over cricket there obviously is a lot more time than what I initially maybe thought. You get the feel of the wicket and you maybe decide to pull the trigger slightly earlier and then you get out and you sit for 20 overs on the side and watch the other guys smack it and it eats away at you,” he said.
“I had to certainly go through those learnings to help me realise that there are gears that you do go through in 50-over cricket… I had to experience that first hand to be able to sort of learn about it, but yeah, still trying to figure it out now, to be honest,” he added.
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