Markram was the player of the tournament when he led South Africa to victory in the ICC Junior Wold Cup in Dubai at the start of the year, and the University of Pretoria cricket team will also be relying on his powerful strokeplay at the top of the order as they represent the country in what amounts to a T20 Varsity World Cup.
“I’m happy with my form and I know how important it is to get the team off to a good start, whether that means posting a total on the board or chasing a target. But I’m not taking anything for granted, that’s the last thing you want to do, and I’m going to keep working hard. As a batsman, I have to get the runs on the board,” Markram said on the eve of his team’s departure for London for the Red Bull Campus Cricket Finals which start on Monday.
Markram will be playing in England for the first time and said he will be relying heavily on the knowledge of Tuks coach Pierre de Bruyn, who spent 10 years as a professional in the United Kingdom, apart from also playing for the Titans and Dolphins in South African franchise cricket.
“It will be my first time in England, but I’m fortunate to have coach Pierre and I’m looking forward to the challenge. I believe the ball does a lot at the start of the innings, but I’ve prepared as best as I could. We know there’s going to be good opposition, so we must just stick to what we know and not take the opposition for granted,” Markram said.
Tuks, having won the national club championships for the last three years and beating SA A in two warm-up games in the last week, undoubtedly have their sights set on next Saturday’s Red Bull Campus Cricket final.
To get there, they have to finish in the top two of their group and then win a semi-final earlier on Saturday. The student champions from the United Kingdom, Australia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies are the other competitors and the eight finalists will be split into two round-robin groups of four, with the draw only being done on Sunday evening.
The round-robin fixtures will be held at the picturesque Wormsley Cricket Club ground, on the Getty family estate and a venue where South African touring teams have played in the past, while the semi-finals and final will be held at the famous Oval, the scene of Hashim Amla’s historic 311 not out in 2012.
“As a team, we’ve played well and each person knows their role and how to execute that. We’re really confident and we trust the abilities of each other,” Markram said.
De Bruyn was more forthright when he said: “Some people don’t like pressure, but we want it, we thrive on it. We don’t pretend it’s not around and we’ve coached the players to deal with it. They make sure they find a way to perform under pressure and that plays a massive role, they have belief when they’re under the pump because they’ve overcome most pressure situations in the last three years.”
The coach said it was vital his team hit the ground running when the Red Bull Campus Cricket Finals start on Monday.
“How we start is going to be crucial, there’s no room for us to start slowly, there’s no room for us to try and find our feet or get into an innings or a bowling spell. We have to be on the button from the first ball on Monday,” De Bruyn said.
India have dominated the previous two Red Bull Campus Cricket Finals – the inaugural event in 2012 was won by DAV College Chandigarh, while last year’s tournament was won by Rizvi College from Mumbai.
While Markram will set the tone up front with his broad bat, he will be backed by new Titans batting star Theunis de Bruyn, as well as exciting strokeplayers in Heinrich Klaasen, Sean Dickson and Johan Wessels.
The bowling will be led by Markram’s SA U19 team-mate Corbin Bosch, the man of the match in the Junior World Cup final, and left-armer Vincent Moore, backed by tidy seamers in De Bruyn, Wessels and Tian Koekemoer, and an array of spinning options – off-spinners Ruben Claasen and Markram, leg-spinner GC Pretorius and orthodox left-armer David Mogotlane.
“We’re going to be under pressure, we’re going to be tested, especially by the sub-continent teams because they have something different, like unorthodox spinners. But we’re a tight unit and this sort of environment is what we aspire to – I don’t think we could be better prepared, we’ve done the hard work and now we just need to express our skills with confidence,” captain Theunis de Bruyn said.
Participating teams: Leeds Bradford MCC (United Kingdom); University of New South Wales (Australia); University of Liberal Arts (Bangladesh); Rizvi College (India); Karachi University (Pakistan); University of Pretoria (South Africa);International College of Business and Technology (Sri Lanka); Jamaica Inter-Collegiate Sports Association (West Indies).
Tuks squad: Theunis de Bruyn, Heinrich Klaasen, Sean Dickson, Gerry Pike, Aiden Markram, Corbin Bosch, David Mogotlane, Tian Koekemoer, Vincent Moore, Nsovo Baloyi, GC Pretorius, Ruben Claassen, Johan Wessels.