'Kuhn should tour, but Markram the future'
Heino Kuhn would be reserve opening batsman when South Africa embarks on the extensive tour to England in May to play in 10 international matches, including four tests, if Paul Harris had his way
South Africa has copped a fair amount of criticism for the decision to transform middle-order batsmen into openers. Stiaan van Zyl struck a superb century on test debut as middle-order batsman, but when transformed to an international opener, failed.
Stephen Cook started his international career as an opener with a century and has struck three tons and three half-centuries since then, but was axed after only managing 57 runs in his final seven innings.
Mark Boucher, the Multiply Titans coach, was scathing in his criticism of the selectors’ decision to insert Theunis de Bruyn, a number-three batsman as opener for the final test against New Zealand at Seddon Park in Hamilton. He warned that you could be throwing De Bruyn for the proverbial wolves by selecting him in a specialist opener.
De Bruyn was prolific for the Knights in the 2016-17 season, slamming 751 runs at an average of 57.76 as number-three or number-four batsman. When he made his South Africa A-debut, De Bruyn blasted a double century and a 150 in his first two innings against the England Lions.
Vincent Barnes, the SA A-coach, applauded those knocks and said he had not seen such batting in a long time. But moving De Bruyn to the opening birth, especially in swinging conditions in England, could be a bridge too far.
“I echo Mark’s sentiments. He should be batting at where he is in the best position to succeed,” said Paul Harris, a former South African left-arm spinner.
“I have said throughout the years that I will opt for Heino Kuhn (opener of the Multiply Titans) to open the batting.
“He understands his game. He is 32, and has been playing for a long time. He knows how to score runs quickly. He will be a perfect foil for Dean Elgar (who is known as a steady accumulator).
“He is one of the fittest cricketers on the circuit.
“If you look at his strike-rate and average for the fast few years, Heino is the best. He averaged 43.91 this past season and managed 1126 runs in the previous Sunfoil Series-season.
“Heino has a very good technique against the swinging new ball and he has made most of his runs in the hardest place in the world to score runs as an opener – in South Africa,” Harris added.
The veteran Andrew Puttick slammed two centuries in 2016-17, but was not at his best in the Sunfoil Series and only managed 477 runs at an average of 36.91.
Albie Morkel, the Multiply Titans’ captain, said Markram is a batsman with an impressive head on his shoulders. “He plays with flair and is a stroke-maker. He is almost as talented as AB de Villiers was at the age of 22.
“The only thing is that he must check his shots at the infancy stage of the innings. He is still young, but has made massive contributions in both the Sunfoil Series and the Momentum One Day Cup competition.”
Markram stuck 347 runs in the Momentum One Day Cup competition. His 183 against the bizhub Highveld Lions is a record-score for the 50-over domestic showpiece. He averaged 51.36 in the Sunfoil Series, which included two tons. He blasted 565 runs in his first full season for the Multiply Titans.
Markram has another opportunity to make the national selectors aware of his vast skills when he plays in the final of the Momentum One Day Cup series against the Warriors at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Friday.
“You cannot say Aiden is a batsman who bowls a bit. To me, he is a genuine allrounder,” Morkel added.
Henry Davids, a teammate of Markram, says one of his greatest accolades is his strength of character. He plays the ball comfortably to all parts of the ground, and is particularly fluent through the off-side and straight past the bowler.
“But his mind is his major strength. When we played against the bizhub Highveld Lions in the Momentum One Day Cup competition, he started off fluently. I battled to get going. But once I found my feet, Aiden sensed this and started taking singles to put me on strike. Now that is a mark of true maturity.”
Harris says Markram is the future of SA cricket, but he will favour Kuhn for the England tour as an opener simply because of his superior experience.