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Markram eyes off de Villiers void

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Proteas star willing to shift down to No.4 in ODI side, says retired great is irreplaceable
Young gun Aiden Markram has put his hand up to take on the No.4 position left vacant in the South Africa’s ODI line-up by the shock retirement of AB de Villiers.

Less than a year out from the start of the 2019 World Cup, the Proteas have found themselves with a gaping hole in their batting order following de Villiers’ decision to walk away from international cricket last month.

On Saturday, Markram was named Cricket South Africa’s Newcomer of the Year at their annual awards night, acknowledgement of the reputation he is fast building for himself as a Test opener where he is averaging 55.55 after 10 matches.

Markram has played seven one-dayers for South Africa, although he has yet to match his Test output in the 50-over format, averaging 27.57.

He was notably handed the captaincy for five matches against India in February in the absence of Faf du Plessis and de Villiers, who were both sidelined by injury at the time.

He opened the batting in that series, with regular opener Quinton de Kock also injured, but with a fit de Kock settled at the top of the order alongside Hashim Amla, Markram says he is willing to take on a new challenge further down the order in the ODI XI.

“It’s a little bit foreign to me, having opened for most of my life, but there have been a few white ball games with the Titans and in the Indian series where I have batted at No 4,” Markram told Sport24.

“It’s a little bit different, but at the end of the day it’s the ball and the situation you’ve got to play. If I ever got given that opportunity I would take it with open arms.”

In 228 ODIs for his country, de Villiers staked a reputation as one of cricket’s great entertainers, having broken the world record for fastest ODI century – from 31 balls against the West Indies in early 2015 – and the fastest 150 in ODIs, after a 64-ball rampage also against the West Indies during the 2015 World Cup.

With that in mind, Markram doesn’t believe South Africa can look for a like-for-like replacement for the Proteas legend.

“I don’t think it’s a case of trying to find the next AB de Villiers because we will never manage to find another player like that,” he said.

“It’s still quite important that whoever does fill that role makes it their own and plays their own game in that role.

“Whether you get the job done like AB does or whoever … as long as the job gets done.

“It’s going to be an interesting selection headache, because there are a lot of good players coming through.

“You’ve got a guy like Heinrich Klaasen and a guy like Temba (Bavuma) who might come into the mix now. It’s going to be interesting.”

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