Aiden Markram captained South Africa in place of an injured Faf du Plessis in the second match of the six-match ODI series against India. Although South Africa had earmarked Markram as a future captain, Markram would’ve hardly expected to take the reigns so early in his career, albeit temporarily. Aged just 23, Markram is the second-youngest player to captain South Africa in ODIs. Graeme Smith was just 22 years and 71 days old when he first led them in ODIs. Overall, at 23 years and 123 days Markram is the tenth-youngest player to have led an ODI team.
While Smith had played 22 ODIs for South Africa by the time he led them against India in an ODI in Dhaka in 2003, Markram, having played just two matches before he took over the reigns from du Plessis, is one of most inexperienced players in the last 25 years to lead a top ODI side. Only Zimbabwe’s Terry Duffin and New Zealand Lee Germon had played fewer matches before captaining their sides. While Duffin took charge of the Zimbabwe side even as he himself made his ODI debut against Kenya in the aftermath of the pay dispute in 2005-06, Germon was appointed as New Zealand’s captain as the result of a shake-up in New Zealand’s cricket administration following the national side’s poor performances in 1994-95.
Clive Rice is the only player with lesser international experience than Markram to have led South Africa in ODIs. He was making his debut in the ODI against India that marked South Africa’s return to international cricket in 1991-92. But apart from Kepler Wessels in that team, none of the other South Africa players had more international experience than Rice.
In Markram’s case though, Khaya Zondo – who made his debut in the previous match against India – was the only South Africa player to have less ODI experience than the captain. Such instances of players with practically no experience leading a top international side are quite rare in ODI history. Apart from Markram, there are only three other captains with lesser experience to have led a side with at least nine players boasting of more experience than the captain. Before Markram in the second ODI, the last such instance was Germon leading in an ODI against India in 1995-96. Before that, Norman Grifford stood-in as England’s captain for a series in Sharjah in 1984-85 as the senior players were rested from the tour. Just shy of 45 years of age when he played in that series, Grifford is still the oldest player ever to have led in ODIs. England’s Mike Brearly is the other captain have captained a side with at least nine more-experienced player earlier than Markram in his ODI career.
In fact, Markram with an experience of only two matches behind him, led ten players in the second ODI against India with a combined experience of 803 matches. If this multiple of 401.50 (803 divided by 2) is taken as an indicator of the magnitude of mismatch in experience between a captain and his team, then only once before has a newbie been burdened with greater responsibility. Germon, on his captaincy debut, led a team that had a contribution of 466 matches’ worth of experience from the other players.
Markram, however, is no greenhorn when it comes to leading sides. He has captained the Titans and South Africa A side in senior representative cricket and has also led South Africa to the Under-19 World Cup title in 2013-14. South Africa will hope that he leads them to that elusive title at the senior level too.