One hurdle overcome, but Proteas hungry for more in T20 final

Aiden Markram says SA's run to the final of the T20 World Cup has been a complete squad effort
Aiden Markram says SA's run to the final of the T20 World Cup has been a complete squad effort
Image: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Aiden Markram admitted he hadn’t allowed himself to think about lifting the T20 World Cup trophy ahead of Saturday’s final against India at the Kensington Oval in Barbados. 

Markram became the first men’s captain to lead his side to an ICC final, ending 32 years of hurt and embarrassment for South African cricket, but he emphasised the journey wasn’t over yet. 

“You get into a competition like this and things move pretty quickly; you get on a plane, fly, check into a new hotel and play the next game of cricket the next day. So I don’t think there is too much reflection that happens. It’s more about the opportunity of being in a final that excites me,” said the 29-year-old. 

He explained that the players were able to move on very quickly after winning Thursday’s semifinal. “There is no sense that the guys are satisfied. Just generally as sportsmen, we’re competitive and the talk immediately after the semifinal was that ‘we have one more to go.’

“There is a really strong will to win, but it’s not on the level of desperation, it is an extreme hunger to win games of cricket. We haven’t achieved on the world stage what we would have liked to. It does get the juices going for the boys to finally achieve it. You’ve seen it in the close results. We have not played our best cricket in certain games, but that will to win drives you to get the job done, by hook or by crook.”

While India have flexed the muscles with some dominant wins during their unbeaten run to the final, South Africa, which is also yet to lose a match, have scraped through several tricky encounters, and rode their luck to get to the last four, where they finally delivered a commanding victory over Afghanistan.

Though much has been made about Markram’s calm and creative leadership, he was wary about accepting too much credit given the way the tournament unfolded for his side. 

“I don’t see it as ‘it is me that got us into this position’ at all. It’s been a squad effort, we've been on a journey together, and that makes me proud, it is a special feeling for all of us. To have the opportunity to win our first trophy you have to be in a final, and to be involved in that is a massive achievement for us” he said. 

Both teams are chasing slices of history Bridgetown, with South Africa aiming for a first ICC trophy, while India, hasn’t won one in over a decade despite their enormous financial and personnel resources.

Worryingly for Markram and his opposite number Rohit Sharma, showers have been forecast during the game. Though 190 minutes are set aside on Saturday to allow the match to be completed, but if it can’t, it will continue on Sunday, resuming from where the match was at the time of the rain interruption.   

There has been an outpouring of emotion among ex-South African players who stumbled at the semifinal hurdle in previous events and Markram explained that their messages of support have been inspirational. 

“There’s been a lot of support from home, from past players, which is special for us. They’re the guys that inspired us when we were younger to now. 

“Whether you win or whether you lose, it’s further than we have gone before, which is a step in the right direction. We’d love to win our first final and then hopefully in the years to come that can break the burden of what other people say about us as a team.”


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