Conventional wisdom says a youngster on international debut should have nerves mixed with jitters and the pressure to make a mark on the world stage with millions of eyes on him.
Well, some people just defy convention like its another walk in the park with casually going out there and scoring a ton on debut, the likes of past legends in Greg Chappell, Gundapa Vishwanath, Mohammad Azharuddin, Mark Waugh and Sourav Ganguly to some of the more modern greats in Francois du Plessis, Alistair Cook, Shaun Marsh, Rohit Sharma, Kane Williamson and more recently the upcoming Indian talent Prithvi Shaw.
A South African in a similar mould though not a centurion on debut is the Centurion born Adien Kyle Markram.
The world first lay eyes on this youngster way back in 2014 at the U-19 World Cup.
With immense grit, determination and confidence second to none, he was instrumental in filling the rather empty South African cabinet with a major trophy, the 2014 U19 World Cupwhen the Proteas under his captaincy beat Pakistan in the final.
Aiden Markram was also adjudged the Player of the Series in that tournament.
Having continued with this confidence, scoring heaps of runs for his domestic franchise, The Titans, his international debut came against Bangladesh in a two-match test series in 2017.
Markram scored an impressive 97 on debut, just missing the three-figure mark by three runs and went on to score his maiden test hundred in the second test with a 143.
It was surely a debut that dreams are made of with this young star amassing an incredible 1000 runs in his first ten tests at an astounding average of 55.
These numbers are no mean feat with four centuries, two against the mighty Australians and one each against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
The world was at his feet and international cricket was awe struck with a new Protea star.
Though, what happened next is a tale of curiousness galore, a saga of bemusement to me and may be to many others.
The same man in his next twelve tests has scored a paltry 533 runs with no centuries, and an impressive average of 55 dropping to a dismal 39.
Is that even possible?
The answer is an unfortunate yes, almost similar to a “Rockstar” musician delivering unparalleled hits in his first few albums before walking into a realm of obscurity.
After massive sky scrappers in his first ten tests it seemed a city full of runs went into more two-storey apartments, which started from the Proteas away tour to Sri Lanka in 2018, where he could only manage scores of 0, 19,7 and 14 in the four innings.
This virus of negativity continued for this opener in the next inbound Pakistan and Sri Lanka series at home with getting just three fifties in the next ten test innings against both these teams.
The disaster soared further when after a rather disappointing 2019 World Cup, the Proteas set foot on Indian shores to salvage some pride in a three match test series.
Markram all but managed 44 runs in the four innings he played in the series with two consecutive ducks in the second test, before injuring himself on the eve of the last test.
The first test of the four match England series that followed the ill-fated Indian tour was also a southward spiral for Markram when he got just twenty and two in the two innings before again getting injured for the remaining tests.
Truth be told, it was perplexing for me to another level that a man with such a sound defensive technique matched with a seamless ability to attack could barely manage to lay bat to ball.
As we know sport much like life is a roller coaster with highs and lows a part and parcel albeit the biggest low the world in its entirety witnessed was COVID in 2020 which brought all sport and if I may life too to a halt in 2020.
Cricket wasn’t spared either and this gave time for Markram to internalise his game in his own admission and when domestic cricket resumed in South Africa in the latter half of last year, he began his campaign with renewed vigour scoring three consecutive tons.
This was reason enough for the Protea think-tank to put him back in the opener’s role with Dean Elgar in the recently concluded two match inbound tour of Sri Lanka with Aiden Markram again finding a bit of form scoring 68 in the first innings of the first test and an important 36 in the second test to help his team win the series two-nil.
Having tasted failure, it makes people tougher to conquer challenges and Aiden Markram certainly looks better with the come-back against Sri Lanka that promised enough to show the metal this man is made of.
Maybe it’s a Markram 2.0 that we are seeing now, a more mature version of himself.
The Protea management has showed immense faith in this batting talisman and its time he starts repaying the faith. Consistently.
As the Pakistan tour dawns, its anyone guess which Aiden Markram will show up?
One certainly hope it’s the new and improved version.