Bavuma: It was just good to be on the field
It seems Temba Bavuma did not only put smiles on the faces of the nation at Newlands on Tuesday night, but he seemed to enjoy himself too.
The past couple of months have been tumultuous for the Proteas, and in particular Bavuma, who had to contend with being dropped from the Test side after four years.
The fallout was a political furore with Cricket SA’s transformation stance coming under intense scrutiny, particularly due to the new Proteas management being predominantly "White" appointments. Graeme Smith is, of course, the acting director of cricket with Mark Boucher the head coach.
Bavuma returned to the Test side at his home ground, the Wanderers, in the series finale to a rousing welcome when he walked out to bat in the first innings. The pressure seemed to be too intense, though, with Bavuma failing to capitalise on a couple of good starts, but the 29-year-old seemed much more relaxed facing the white ball in the green Proteas pyjamas under the Newlands lights.
"It was just good to be on the field," Bavuma said after striking a superb 98 that enabled the Proteas to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. "It's a different format and a different kind of pressure. I felt like I was a kid with no burden out there."
With all the focus on Bavuma as the country’s leading Black African batsman, the expectation from the public can sometimes be exorbitant for someone who admitted "Yes, I am black, that's my skin" but that "I play cricket because I love it."
Bavuma is acutely aware of his responsibilities as the beacon for aspiring young Black African batsmen. However, he knows that he cannot allow for it to weigh him down.
"That element is inspiring, when your fellow black African batsmen want to master the craft of batting ... that's something I try take in my stride," he said.
"The time away from the team has given me time to reflect and realign with my goals and to find the strength and courage to keep chugging along and keep enjoying the game."
Bavuma has now played only three ODI’s since debuting against Ireland in Benoni in 2016. He carved out a century that day at Willowmoore Park and has since added a polished 98 to average 86.33 at a strike-rate of 94.87.
These types of numbers cannot be viewed in any form as that of a "quota player", particularly after an impressive T20 series in India towards the end of last year too.
He has, though, been around the block enough times to know that this is just the beginning of his white-ball career, and nothing should ever be taken for granted in the wild wild west of South African cricket.
"I don't think I have nailed my spot in the side. This was just my third game and I am just happy to be on the field," Bavuma said. "I don't know what's going to happen after this series or next week. It's just to enjoy the little moments I have."