‘His Captaincy Was Terrific, He Led from Front’: Graeme Smith ‘Impressed’ by Aiden Markram’s Leadership in SA20

Written By: Aakash Biswas

Last Updated: February 13, 2024, 20:30 IST

Aiden Markram-led Sunrisers Eastern Cape won the SA20 2024

Aiden Markram-led Sunrisers Eastern Cape won the SA20 2024

Winning a second consecutive title was a confidence booster for Markram whose leadership in the IPL was under doubt, given how the Sunrisers Hyderabad performed in the last season.

The second season of SA20 concluded last Saturday with Sunrisers Eastern Cape (SEC) winning the title, for the second time in a row, after defeating Keshav Maharaj’s Durban Super Giants by a huge margin of 89 runs. The Aiden Markram-led side was phenomenal throughout the season, finishing at the league stage on top of the table with 33 points. Winning a second consecutive title, that too, in the presence of team owner Kavya Maran was a confidence booster for Markram whose leadership in the Indian Premier League (IPL) was under doubt, given how the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) performed in the last season.

After releasing Kane Williamson, the franchise didn’t think twice about handing the captaincy duties to the Markram who was appointed South Africa’s T20I captain and was fresh from an inaugural SA20 title win. The management had high hopes but the shift in leadership didn’t yield desired results. It turned out to be one of the worst seasons for the franchise in which they finished at the bottom of the table with 4 wins and 10 defeats.

2023 was a tough year for Markram as a captain. South Africa lost back-to-back bilateral series, against West Indies and Australia – at home before playing a 1-1 draw against India. But he flourished as a batter, and not just in T20Is but across formats. And probably, that was the reason why Sunrisers showed faith in him and didn’t part ways. In return, Markram handed them another trophy and gained confidence to lead SRH in IPL 2024, and most likely, South Africa in the subsequent T20 World Cup 2024.

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Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) Director of Cricket Graeme Smith was massively impressed with Markram’s progress in the tournament, crediting the Sunrisers for creating a strong atmosphere.

“It (Markram’s captaincy) has been terrific. The sunrises seem to have created a really strong atmosphere. He’s obviously worked well with their coach Adrian Birrell. We saw some of their players just really improve dramatically this season. We saw 100 from Jordan Hermann. We’ve seen Tristan Stubbs have a great season. There are guys who have just been bubbling under the radar without being noticed, suddenly really stepped up for him,” Smith replied to a CricketNext query in a select media interaction.

“They seem to have a really outstanding team spirit. Aiden has impressed me. His middle-order batting in white ball cricket has been outstanding for a long period of time and he had another good tournament with a bat, he led from the front and he’s, and he’s calm tactically.

“I think the sign is that the players play for him and that’s, that’s always a good thing,” he added.

‘We achieved all our goals’

The former South African captain was satisfied with the success of another season of the SA20 which garnered a massive response from the local crowd and also the fans worldwide. He said the idea was to make the league stronger than before and they have achieved all their goals.

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“My experience was very good. We achieved all our goals. It’s going to take us some time to collate all the data but halfway through the tournament, all numbers were up. Both broadcast & crowd numbers. I think in particular, the cricket was outstanding this year,” Smith said.

“The teams got even more competitive. We saw a really outstanding number of individual performances as well. When you look at the cricket stats, everything improved dramatically. And that’s obviously what we wanted. We wanted the league to get stronger,” he added.

We want the cricket to be as competitive as possible. I’ll always be grateful for the support that we’re getting from the public. The people that turn on their TVs and coming to stadiums for us, that vibrancy. The atmosphere of SA20, and the feedback we’re receiving, have been extremely positive.

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