South Africa v India ODIs

Proteas set new bar with rookie skipper

A look at some of the most inexperienced international captains after Aiden Markram’s shock promotion

Martin Smith

4 February 2018, 01:42 PM AEST

South Africa will aim to retain the world No.1 ODI ranking with one of the most inexperienced captains in the game's history at the helm.

The Proteas announced on Saturday that 23-year-old Aiden Markram will skipper the side for the remaining five one-day internationals against India despite the right-hander having played just two previous one-day games for his country.

Markram takes over from regular skipper Faf du Plessis, who suffered a finger injury during India's six-wicket win in Durban.

Markram has impressive leadership credentials having led his country to victory at the 2014 Under-19 World Cup, while he's also captained South Africa A and the Titans domestically.

But his elevation to the leadership of the senior side still came as a major shock given it's come just four months after his international debut.

At the age of 23 and 123 days, Markram is the 10th-youngest male captain in ODI history and the youngest South African behind legendary skipper Graeme Smith, who was appointed in 2003 at the age of 22.

Smith was elevated to the captaincy early in his career // Getty

But in terms of inexperience, Markram tops the lot.

Of the nine men to have captained their country at a younger age, only former Bangladesh skipper Rajin Saleh (19 games) played less than 20 ODIs before taking over the captaincy.

And of the 21 men to have been named captain before their 24th birthday, only two - Hong Kong's Jamie Atkinson and Zimbabwe's Terry Duffin - played less than 15 games before becoming skipper.

The elevations of Atkinson and Duffin came in exceptional circumstances as well; Atkinson first captained his country in 2014, six years after his debut, in what was Hong Kong's third-ever ODI, while Duffin was essentially one of the last men standing after the bitter Zimbabwean player dispute in the summer of 2005-06.

But apart from the early days of one-day internationals when inexperienced captains were unavoidable - for example, Australia's Bill Lawry and England's Ray Illingworth captained on debut in the first ever ODI in 1971 - Markram stands apart.

Markram bats against India in the first ODI // Getty

Not that he vocalised any concerns when he was unveiled as skipper on Saturday.

"Yes, it can be an intimidating thing, but the culture in the team is so good," he said.

"It allows for a young player like myself to go and engage with a guy like Hashim Amla, who's a legend of the game. It makes it a lot easier for me, it's not something I see as intimidating.

"I'll keep Hash close to my side in the field, and obviously other experienced players as well. It's going to be something very exciting, it's going to be a new challenge. But it's a positive challenge to look forward to."

Selector Linda Zondi said Markram's elevation has come with a view to taking the side forward beyond the 2019 World Cup given the past three ODI captains - du Plessis, Amla and AB de Villiers - will all be older than 35 at the end of next year's tournament.

"Part of our plan is to also build that pool of leaders within the set-up," Zondi said.

Markram celebrates a half-century on ODI debut last October // Getty

"I think Markram has always been in our plans since he was U-19 captain, leading up to SA A, and now joining the Proteas.

"Yes, there will be pressure in terms of him maybe understanding his role and also being able to perform as a player.

"For us, we want to see if he can handle pressure, because part of leadership is to be able to adjust and perform under pressure. We think he has the right skill and the right capability to do so."

ODI CAPTAINS AGED 24 OR YOUNGER (matches played before captaincy debut)

Terry Duffin (Zimbabwe) - 0 Aiden Markram (South Africa) - 2 Jamie Atkinson (Hong Kong) - 2 Javed Miandad (Pakistan) - 16 Rajin Saleh (Bangladesh) - 19 Jason Holder (West Indies) - 21 Kapil Dev (India) - 22 Graeme Smith (South Africa) - 22 William Porterfield (Ireland) - 23 Kane Williamson (New Zealand) - 24 Moin Khan (Pakistan) - 31 Alastair Campbell (Zimbabwe) - 37 Prosper Utseya (Zimbabwe) - 39 Ramnaresh Sarwan (West Indies) – 54 Tatenda Taibu (Zimbabwe) - 54 Stephen Fleming (New Zealand) - 60 Dinesh Chandimal (Sri Lanka) - 61 Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh) - 62 Waqar Younis (Pakistan) - 75 Suresh Raina (India) - 90 Mohammad Ashraful (Bangladesh) - 102 Sachin Tendulkar (India) - 119

Qantas tour of South Africa

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird, Jon Holland, Jhye Richardson.

Warm-up match v SA Invitational XI, Sahara Park, Benoni, Feb 22-24

First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5

Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13

Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26

Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3