‘Going Back-to-back Will be Huge’: Sunrisers Eastern Cape Skipper Aiden Markram Targets SA20 Title Defence

Sunrisers Eastern Cape skipper Aiden Markram opened up about a variety of topics ahead of his side’s qualifier against Durban Super Giants on 6th February 2024, 9:00 PM IST in the Betway SA20.

Reflecting on their journey thus far, Markram highlighted the significance of winning close games which have put his side in a position of advantage.

“I wouldn’t say anything new that we’ve done or tried. Looking back at the group stages of the competition, we have had quite a few close games. And if you manage to win those close games, or most of them at least, you end up sitting in a great position,” Markram said.

“So we have been fortunate to get over the line in those close games. We had like 4 or 5 of them. Last year we probably missed out on a couple of those close ones, but this year we managed to get over the line. And because of that, it has sort of been a fantastic campaign for us,” he added.

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The 29-year-old also touched upon the contributions made by Ottniel Baartman as a key factor in his side’s run to the playoffs.

“Yeah, he has been fantastic for us. He is known in South Africa to be a really good death bowler. He has got great plans and tends to execute them well,” the skipper said.

“There has been a couple of games he has missed out on due to a few niggles, but that happens in a busy competition like the SA20. Every time he has played for us he has taken the responsibility of bowling the really tough overs and he enjoys that challenge.”

“And he has got the skill set to execute it. So we are really happy that he is in our team and our changing room and we have got his skills at our disposal. It’s great for him to go from strength to strength each year,” Markram lauded Baartman.

Having led multiple side throughout his career, the South African all-rounder also opened up on the challenges and rewards of captaincy.

“It’s been fantastic. There is an opportunity to learn a lot in the last year or so that I have been captain. I have been captaining for a while, so it’s nice to be captain again and take up that responsibility,” Markram said.

“Obviously you learn on the job and make the team a better place for everyone to enjoy themselves and be the better team on the field as well. Love the opportunity to be captain and the responsibilities that come with it,” he elaborated.

Markram credited the SEC management and also spoke about the difference in culture between the SA20 and IPL circuits.

“A lot of credit goes to the management at SEC and the players that have walked in here have understood the culture and how we like things to run. I’m not sure about IPL just yet, but if I compare it to last year, you’ve got different cultures and different people with regards to the SA20 and the IPL,” Markram opined.

“Most of the players in our team are South African so I’ve known them for many years and have played a lot of games with them. And the relationships have been solid now for years, and I’ve grown to know them over the years and it’s a lot easier that way. I think for the IPL, it’s great to know people from the IPL standpoint, what gets them to tick and what gets them to perform. I think that’s the most important. So it presents a lot of unique challenges but they are challenges I would love to take on,” the all-rounder explained.

Markram also went on to give his take on the busy T20 season in store in the year 2024 and said that it was good to be occupied with a tight calendar.

“It’s busy, but it’s great to be busy. I suppose we are living our dream. It’s nice to be involved in these competitions. Maintaining form is ideal but we have to remember it’s still a game of cricket. And things can fluctuate quite a bit. But to remain the same person when you’re doing well or not doing well, and to stick to the same ways you prepare will give you the best chance to succeed,” the skipper said.

“And hopefully when you go down to the middle, you are sort of at ease with whatever happens because you have prepared well. Then you take whatever you have prepared into each competition, IPL, World Cup, whatever, but as long as you’re giving yourself the best chance to do well in the matches, that has to be your preparation,” Markram added.

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Markram said he looked forward to the qualifier and the prospect of moving on to the final directly.

“Yeah, I think we are looking forward to the first qualifier, there’s no bigger incentive than if you win it you go straight to the final and give yourself a crack at lifting the trophy again. So that’s where our mentality is at the moment.”

The all-rounder also revealed how it would be optimal to get the extra rest days that he and his side would be entitled to if they manage to book their berth in the final with a win in the qualifier.

“Complete focus on the qualifiers so we can go straight to the final, and the added incentive of not going to Joburg and playing in the eliminator. So hopefully we have a good game and get a couple of days off and then we go straight to the finals.”

Markram, who managed to win the title in the previous edition, said it would be special if he could go on to defend the trophy.

“It’ll be huge for me to be honest. Getting it once was incredible last year, so it’s much harder to do it back to back. It’s been fulfilling not just for me but for everyone involved. We are pretty motivated to try and get the job done.”

“I think going back-to-back is really difficult especially if you look at the quality of opposition in the league, the quality of players and other teams. So we are pretty motivated at the moment and that’s where our focus is,” the man from Centurion added.

Jordan Hermann, the 22-year-old who has been magnificent for the Sunrisers Eastern Cape this season received huge praise from Markram, who said, “It’s really not up to us, it’s all down to him. If you can see what he does behind closed doors you won’t be surprised with the performances that he puts in.”

“Obviously he is still very young and is learning on the job. He has not played a lot of cricket other than SA20, but he hits millions of balls, trains really hard and is always trying to improve his game,” Markram continued with the praise on the young player.

“His ability to play at such a young age is making South Africa excited about him. He’s got a strong character and he’s got the hunger to win games and contribute to a winning team. And the stability he has makes him a special talent that we have here in South Africa. So hopefully we make it to the final and he puts in a big performance for us in the final,” Markram concluded.

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