Three things cause headache to bowlers on the twenty-two yards. First, the inability to hold onto their line. Second, failure to bowl to a plan, worsened further by conceding too many extras in an over. Then there’s that horrible sight no bowler can stand- being struck for a six off a no ball. Helps no one. Want to know more? Well, in the current context of the game, misery stems by simply looking at Janneman Malan’s batting average.
In a game obsessed with numbers, where stats play as big a role as big hits over the fence, Janneman Malan’s ODI average is a figure that would please every great finisher whether a Dhoni or Bevan or any fierce striker of the ball.
Perhaps it makes less sense to cage South Africa in the one-sided narrative that talks about how hard it’s becoming for them to turn around a corner during this difficult phase of rebuilding with no Faf, Steyn and other legends around. And perhaps it would make so much of sense to look beyond the normal, and delve into what their newbies are doing already.
At 120, Janneman Malan boasts of a batting average that should worry anyone and everyone, whether a Bumrah, Boult, Sodhi, Wood, Woakes, Hasan, Yasir or Roach.
That what worries bowlers, is still that classic Protea-related question- “how to get de Kock out early or keep him quiet”- beckons a turning of the page.
Not that Quinton de Kock has lost any of his glorious touch. The tormentor of the West Indies, the hammerer of Ireland a few hours ago, notching up his century number sixteen in ODI.
Things have changed and progressed for a team that today finds itself without Faf du Plessis and constantly under the judgmental watch of critics who rule by scorn, perhaps unaware of the administrative decay and political interference in the sport that unites the nation.
South Africa is more than the series of onslaughts the civilians are facing and also raging, whether one speaks about Kwa Zulu Natal or Transvaal. South Africa is more than the veiled insult posed in the name of political turmoil at the country.
The country which once famously took pride in describing the Rainbow Nation is being ably served by a pantheon of youngsters determined to forge their own destiny.
In Aiden Markram, you have a bright captain-like material. In Rassie van der Dussen, you have a technically correct frontman to lead South African batting. In Kyle Verreynne, you have a batsman who seems to fit smoothly across formats.
And what about Janneman Malan?
In the fluent right-hander, South Africa have a destructive batsman who goes about doing his job with quiet sincerity and a sense of purpose.
Aware of the responsibility entrusted on his young shoulders from the very position that was once represented by greats no lesser than Smith or Amla, Janneman Malan is the best thing that happened to South African cricket during its darkest time.
Someone who, just hours ago, reached a career-best ODI score by taunting the Irish, in Ireland through a courageous 177.
A timely knock that was heavy in impact, Malan's fighting century helped his country mount a massive fightback after having been left embarrassed by the Irish ‘curse,’ one ODI back.
For someone who’s yet to play even ten ODI innings- you read that right- Janneman Malan has only gone, thus far, two innings without raising his bat to acknowledge crowds for a landmark.
6 of his ODI innings have yielded 2 fifties and as many centuries, the latest three-figure mark enabling the Proteas to post a 346 on the board.
Someone who can hold onto one end, lead the attack by breaking free, takes minimal risks by averting the needless desire to hit airy strokes, Malan’s time has come.
Should he continue to pile on the runs, as he did, when he joined forces with de Kock, to register the fifth-highest opening stand for the Proteas, it can be said with certainty that he won’t be going anywhere for a decade.
That said, what was truly remarkable about the batsman who seems to be wearing cool weather on his sleeves, was that he carried his bat well until the end of the innings.
Taking 126 deliveries to notch up his second ODI century, Malan also became just the third Protea batsman (de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen being the others) to reach the three-figure mark in 2021, with half a year still to go.
In a year where even the gorgeous stroke maker Markram has gone quiet (5 ODIs) and so has the fiery accumulator of runs, Klaasen, Malan’s fireworks offer bright light in the Protea sky amid a time where the country is engulfed in darkness.
That he needs another seventeen runs to reach the half-way stage of a batsman’s first and foremost milestone in ODI cricket- 500 runs- should be something easier than solving Rubik’s cube blindfolded.
With form and temperament both on his side, Janneman, who just showed a glimpse of his temperament following his 213-minute stay at the crease, should get there sooner than expected.
So maybe next game Ireland?