Aiden Markram, the 2014 Under-19 World Cup winning captain, has been named Titans' first-class captain for the 2017-18 summer. He succeeds Henry Davids, who stepped down ahead of the competition's opening round, after five seasons in charge of the four-day side. He will be the vice-captain across limited-overs formats.
Markram captained the South African A side in their four-day matches in England this winter and led them at home against India. At 22, he is being touted as a future national captain, which was underlined when he was also named captain of the South African Invitation side, which is scheduled to play Bangladesh in a warm-up match, starting Thursday. Markram, however, has been withdrawn from that fixture in order to allow him to lead the Titans in the opening round of first-class games which begin tomorrow.
Markram will take charge of a side that includes current national captain Faf du Plessis and three other members of the Test squad, namely Dean Elgar, Quinton de Kock and Morne Morkel. Heino Kuhn, Elgar's opening partner in England, has not been named in the squad as he continues to recover from injury.
Markram's appointment as Titans' captain comes at an important time because a solid performance in the season opener could see him make the Test team - as soon as next week - when South Africa play Bangladesh in Potchefstroom. Markram's direct competitor, Stephen Cook, meanwhile, will be playing for Lions against Warriors. Should Markram need to leave the franchise for international duty, he will miss the second and third rounds of the first-class competition but the Titans have made contingency plans and should have him at their disposal for the fourth and fifth rounds as well as for all of February, when the tournament will be in its second half.
As much as the Titans are grooming Markram for greatness at the next level, they are also hoping to benefit from his youthful yet matured playing style. "He's got a background of being a leader and I believe Aiden has all the right attributes to take the Titans forward into the new season," Mark Boucher, Titans coach, said. "Certain cricketers play better when they are leaders and I believe Aiden is one of those players. He is well respected, both as a cricketer and as an individual."
Markram has listed winning the first-class competition as one of his goals. Titans finished as runners up last season but have a formidable record in the format and Markram believes they have plenty more to offer. "The goal will be to win the Sunfoil Series," he said. "We missed out on it last year and if I look at the cricket we played, I think we have more in the tank and I believe if we play to our potential as a side, we will be challenging for the trophy."