”There’s a will to win” – Aiden Markram | T20 World Cup Final

Proteas captain Aiden Markram ahead of the T20 World Cup Final between South Africa and India.

[Reporter:]

How do you look at the prospect of taking on a team which has not won a title in the last 10 years but should have, against a team who has never won a world title?

[Aiden Markram:]

Probably just see it as a new game of cricket, to be honest. We all know India’s a great team. Us as a team, as South Africans, have been sort of trending in the right direction the last couple of years, but maybe not progressed in tournaments as far as we would have liked. So, an exciting occasion tomorrow against a good opposition in India, but a nice opportunity for us as the proteas as well.

[Reporter:]

Aiden, you’ve got quite a few people in your team who’ve been part of those teams that haven’t made finals in the past. It looks from the outside like the difference is you’ve found a way to win key moments in tight matches. Would you agree with that and could you expand on that? And why is it do you think you’ve been able to do that in this tournament whereas you haven’t been able to do it in the past?

[Aiden Markram:]

Not 100% sure, but I would agree. I think there’s been close moments in games that would have probably affected the result and we managed to win those moments. To have done them two, three, maybe four times throughout the competition so far has sort of given the team the belief that you can win from any position, which I think is quite important for a team to have that. Guys we’ve been together now for quite a few years as a squad, as a white ball squad, and guys finally really understanding their roles within the team and I think that’s starting to help us win those like small margins and those knife-edge moments.

[Reporter:]

First time ever in a world tournament like T20 World Cup, not batters, but bowlers are real heroes. So as a captain, how happy are you about that? And as a batter, how tough it is?

[Aiden Markram:]

Yeah, it’s been tough as a batter. But I suppose either way, as a captain, whether it’s batting or bowling friendly, if your unit that’s putting performances in for you to get the wins, or if they’re doing their job like they have been, you’re pretty happy as a captain. So, I suppose it’s been nice for the bowlers. I think T20 cricket as a whole throughout the world now has pretty much been a better friendly game. So, I guess it’s been nice to see for the bowlers and something nice for the bowlers to work with. But from a batting point of view, it’s been pretty challenging.

[Reporter:]

Aidan, can you tell us how it feels for you emotionally as a captain to be the guy to take South Africa over this frontier? And reflecting on some of the people who’ve sat in your chair before some of the great names of South African cricket who haven’t quite got there and have any of those guys been in touch?

[Aiden Markram:]

Yeah, there’s been a lot of support back home or from back home from past players which is special for us as a group. They are the guys that inspired us when we were younger and to now be firstly making them proud but also having their support obviously means a hell of a lot to us as a team. I don’t see it as it was me that got us into this position at all. It’s been a squad effort and a squad that’s been together for a few years now that’s been on a journey and the journey has now finally got us here to our first final which is a proud and special feeling not just for me but for everyone involved in the squad and to have an opportunity to win our first trophy, you have to be in a final to have that opportunity and to at least be involved in that tomorrow is a massive achievement for us.

[Reporter:]

Are there any of those, like the past players and the past like defeats and things that have come that stand out for you in the time that you were growing up with it were there any in particular that like you remember?

[Aiden Markram:]

Probably the 2015 one was that the one in New Zealand or Australia yeah one of those two against New Zealand yeah that one was probably the most gut-wrenching for me as a cricket fan back then. I’ll probably remember that one pretty clearly.

[Reporter:]

Have you allowed yourself to think what it would be if you were to win tomorrow and you were to be the, as you said, this would be the team maybe that are the one that breaks the new ground for South Africa and wins it?

[Aiden Markram:]

Not too much. Yeah, it’s almost like you get in a competition like this and things move pretty quickly. You play a game, you get on a plane, you fly, you check in at a new hotel and play your next game of cricket the next day. So, I don’t think there’s too much reflecting that happens. But it’s more the opportunity that we have of being in a final that sort of excites me quite a bit I think after the competition will sit back and really appreciate what we’ve achieved so far as a team. Whether you win or whether you lose you you’ve gone a step further at least and for us that’s again going in the right direction. But yeah, we’d love to get to our first final and be able to win that first final. And hopefully in the years to come that can break the burden of what a lot of other people are saying about us as a team.

[Reporter:]

Aidan, obviously there was so much made about South Africa never previously having won a semi-final and a lot of the ex-players just saying how big that achievement is in itself for you to reach a final. But in terms of the mindset of your players going into the final, how do you I guess, leave that to one side and really pick yourselves up that the biggest game is still to come and , you need to have your best game of the tournament tomorrow.

[Aiden Markram:]

Yeah, it’s important. We were obviously a happy bunch the other night after qualifying for the final, but it’s amazing. I’m sure all teams do it, but straight after that game in the changing room, you still reflect and you say, guys, we’ve still got one more step to go. So, it’s not driven by coach or by captain. The whole unit sort of feels that and is driven by that. As general, sportsmen are highly competitive people and nobody would want to lose, and especially not lose in a final. So, I think there’s no sense that the guys are satisfied regardless of the result tomorrow. I think there’s still a massive hunger for us to go out and win tomorrow’s game.

[Reporter:]

Aidan, it sounds like you had a pretty difficult travel day yesterday. Can you just explain that and whether that’s had an impact on players and just generally this tournament? You’ve had a couple of tough logistical things. What’s that been like?

[Aiden Markram:]

Yeah, we’ve had a couple. I suppose a lot of other teams have gone through similar things. And we joke about it as a team and say, like, we’re kind of used to it now. And it’s just been part of this tournament. And you’ve just got to crack on with things. There’s no point sulking around and making it more miserable than what it might already seem to be. So, it was a slightly longer day yesterday. I think a lot of you guys are with us. But it was one of those where, like I said, you just bite the bullet. You get there a bit later, you have some food, and you rest your head and wake up today with a really positive attitude about the next couple of days that lie ahead.

[Reporter:]

For back-to-back games, for semifinals, finals, how do you even prepare for something like this? Because you guys are playing on a trot right now. So how is the South African team preparing for a game like that with no time?

[Aiden Markram:]

Yeah, so there’s obviously training this afternoon, but completely optional to the individual if they’d like to come here, see the ground, maybe have a hit, or run around, or they’re also more than welcome to put their feet up in the hotel room or at the swimming pool. And then a lot of it, I think, is just mentally getting sharp and getting up for the game. Cricketers now play quite a lot of cricket and quite regularly and play back-to-back games pretty often. So, I don’t think it’s something new for us as a team to deal with. But definitely important to address the fact that mentally you need to be switched on and have all your energy channelled in the right direction going into tomorrow.

[Reporter:]

You’ve been in big matches before, semifinals, finals, you’ve lost, you’ve won. How are you, emotionally, are you feeling any differently than you would in other games for this match?

[Aiden Markram:]

Not just yet, no. I’m sure You wake up tomorrow, there’ll be a lot of emotions inside that you’ll be feeling, but for the time being, still just excited at the opportunity, trying not to waste any energy, be it emotional energy or whatever, just wondering about what tomorrow could look like I think. We’ve always chatted as a team about like taking care of today and today’s a rest day so making sure we sleep really well and spend a lot of time with the feet up and then take on tomorrow and see where it gets us.

[Reporter:]

Is it easy to be able to try to stop yourself from thinking and spending energy? Doesn’t that also spend energy when you’re trying to stop yourself from thinking about it?

[Aiden Markram:]

No, you just distract yourself, really. Find something to do or watch a show or something and burn some time, I guess.

[Reporter:]

I mean for a team to go unbeaten through a month of cricket in a tournament like this usually you think there’s something different about the team maybe than previous teams what have you in terms of like the mentality or the team spirit that side of things is there something about this team that makes it – to you, feel different from previous ones?

[Aiden Markram:]

I mean, it’s the same group of people, like I mentioned, that have been together now for quite some time I think there’s a really strong will to win. I don’t think it’s on the level of desperation though but it’s an extreme hunger to win games of cricket and we haven’t achieved ideally on the world stage what we would have liked to and I think that gets the juices going a bit for the boys to finally achieve it and try to achieve it at least. I think you’ve seen it in the close results, probably not have played some of our best cricket in certain games, but that will to win sort of drives you to, by hook or by crook, get the job done. So that’s probably one thing that’s really stood out for me in this group. You win those close games and you take a lot of belief moving forward that from any position you feel like you can still win the game.

[Reporter:]

Are you worried about the fact that Virat Kohli is yet to score in the tournament – big final, we all know what a player he has been. Any plan and are you worried of the fact that he has not scored runs in the tournament?

[Aiden Markram:]

I don’t think it worries me. He’s a great player, as we all know. But they’ve got their whole batting units full of great players. And cricket’s a game of ups and downs. You’re not always going to do well, especially as a batter. So, we just do our planning, do our preparation from a meetings point of view for planning towards those batters and hopefully on the day we can get that right.

[Reporter:]

Aiden, Indian team has immensely benefited from IPL. Many of you play definitely, but not all of you. So, has the current surge in performance of South Africa team has anything to do with the SA20?

[Aiden Markram:]

Yeah, the SA20 has been fantastic for cricket in South Africa. I feel we’ve seen what the IPL has done for cricket in India from an exposure point of view for players and ideally SA20 is going to get to a similar sort of vibe or it’s going to achieve the same thing for cricket in South Africa, hopefully. So, it has been great. I think we’ve seen now quite a few more South Africans are getting picked up around the world in various leagues. So, yeah, you’d like to think that SA20 is going to play a big role moving forward, but already in its two years of existence has played a pretty big role.

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