CAPE TOWN - Newlands. The famed old lady is one of those prestigious cricket grounds in the world that pulls stridently at the heart strings.
With its unique setting of Table Mountain providing a picture-perfect backdrop and the oak trees being a source of comfort from the piercing Cape Town summer sun, Newlands touches the soul of anyone who's ever encountered it.
And it is for this reason that Temba Bavuma has traded the concrete mass - also known as the Wanderers - for a return to the place he called home since a schoolboy just up the road at Sacs.
“I grew up in Cape Town. It’s my birthplace. I’ve loved my time in Johannesburg at the Lions, but everyone always knew that at some point I would go home,” the Proteas Test star reflected about his move from the Highveld Lions to the Cape Cobras this week.
“Newlands, Western Province and the Cobras have always been close to my heart. I remember growing up, Friday evenings and the old Standard Bank Cup night games. I would run down to Newlands in the afternoons, watching cricket until late and then catch the guys with the Coca-Cola truck who gave me a lift back to Langa.”
It was in Langa where little Temba developed his passion for the game. If he wasn’t playing in the streets, where he would encounter quality bowlers like Lions seamer Nono Pongolo, who also hails from Langa, he would be hustling for a senior club match at the Langa Stadium.
It was during one of those senior matches that Bavuma, still only 13 and barely reaching the height of the stumps, shared in an astonishing 120-run partnership. He’s been the pride of the community ever since and explained why he baulked at the more lavish night spots of Camps Bay and Clifton to instead celebrate his epic maiden Test century in the New Year Test against England at Newlands last year back in Langa.
Bavuma is well aware of his reputation in Langa - and even more so the responsibility he carries - now that former Test cricketer Thami Tsolekile, who stayed just around the corner from Bavuma, is serving a 12-year-ban for contriving to fix matches.
Young people need role-models and Bavuma wants to be one of them - just like his uncle Tango, who was one of Langa CC finest cricketers while he was growing up, was to him. He has already started the “Temba Bavuma Foundation” in Johannesburg and is eager to further its reach in Langa.
Bavuma, though, has not only returned due to sentiment and a social conscience. The appointment of former Proteas batsman Ashwell Prince as Cobras head coach and fellow Sacs alumni Dane Piedt as captain has Bavuma excited.
He feels these two men, with their differing personalities and expertise, can take the Cobras back to the top of domestic cricket.
“A lot has happened at the Cobras over the past 12 months, but they remain one of the strongest franchises in the country. Ashwell’s appointment is really exciting too. I struck up a good relationship with him on a SA 'A 'tour and felt that I could really trust him with my game. I’m really excited to have the opportunity of working with him on a daily basis,” Bavuma explained.
“Piedtie hmmm... That’s going to be different. He’s always one of the funny guys in the changeroom. So, it’s going to be strange having him as my skipper, but I know he’s a very deep thinker of the game and always coming with different strategies, so that’s going to be exciting too.”
Before Bavuma actually gets to wear “The Blue and Yellow” next season he does have some challenges over the course of the winter. After a fairly successful series in New Zealand, he is currently preparing for the SA ‘A’ tour of England before the “main course” when the Proteas lock horns with the English in a four-match Test series.
“New Zealand was okayish I think I could have done better. So, I’m happy. I haven’t played in England before, so this ‘A’ tour is important preparation. There are a big few months ahead,” Bavuma explained.