JOHANNESBURG - A period of “deep self-reflection” awaits Temba Bavuma following what he described as an “up and down” international season.
The good: Being part of a South African Test team that went from being ranked seventh in the world to No2 in the space of seven months, by winning series in Australia and New Zealand. The bad: Averaging 24.8 in Tests this season, with four half-centuries, and not being able to add to his sole Test hundred.
That’s why he feels he may be suited to batting higher up the order for the Proteas.
“Personally, if the opportunity is there, I’d like to bat higher up,” Bavuma said in Soweto on Monday when his foundation opened some newly refurbished pitches at the Hoernle Primary School.
“That kind of responsibility will help to bring out the best in me, not that there isn’t responsibility at no.6, but batting up the order means there is greater expectationas a batter to put runs on the board and not to do it just when you’re under pressure.”
There was a dichotomy to Bavuma’s batting in the 2016/17 season; when the team most needed runs he prospered, and when the going should have been easier and he should have dominated, he failed.
His four half-centuries all came with South Africa in trouble; 81/5 in the first innings in Perth, 132/5 in Hobart, 148/4 in Dunedin and 94/6 in Wellington. The Proteas won three out of those four matches, so there’s no doubting Bavuma’s toughness under pressure. When South Africa dominated Sri Lanka, Bavuma scored just 21 runs in five innings.
“I’ve always felt that the way you go about your game-plan, your approach, is dictated by the situation of the game,” he said.
“When you open (the innings) you can go about it in the same way (every time you bat).
“Looking back at my season, when the chips were down, when the pressure was on, I was able to (play well). But when there wasn’t any obvious pressure, I haven’t been able to put the numbers on the board,” he explained.
“Thats where I really need to focus. Maybe it’s my intensity which drops, which results in my skill-area dropping. In saying that as long as we’re contributing to the team and the team is on top, we can find ways to move forward comfortably and with little emotion.”
Bavuma said he’d be locking himself in a dark room to do some self-reflecting.
“I’ll go over my season, and where I feel I need assistance - whether that is my technique or the mental side of things - I’ll approach the relevant people most of it is quite personal, you can’t really lie to yourself. Speak to yourself and ask yourself those tough questions and that’s generally where you find solutions.”
On Monday he got to bask in the hot sun giving back to the primary school located near the Soweto Cricket Club, which Bavuma represents. The pitches at the Hoernle Primary had fallen into disrepair and were not used for the past six years, following a colourful launch that involved a former sponsor of the national team.
For Bavuma it shone a light on the importance of not just launching a good initiative, but having the means to sustain it.
“We don’t want a situation where after a year, the nets are vandalised. We’ve talked to the school about that; there are plans to improve the security.
“The fact that the facility will be used means it’s alive. What we did here is a beginning, it’s a means to get to that ideal place.
“It would be shortsighted of us to just come here, build a facility and then leave it up to everyone else... we still have a role to ensure everything is maintained. I have ties with Soweto and the coach here (at the school), I’ll be coming in when I can – also assisting with the coaching – I’ll be keeping an eye on everything.
“This is not the last day we will be here. I won’t be foreign to this place.”