JOHANNESBURG - Before he can convince himself he’s ready to take on Mitchell Starc and Co. next month, Temba Bavuma has a job convincing the doctors his fractured finger has been properly rehabilitated.
While Bavuma, still wearing a cast, hopes to be able to bat next week, he may have trouble finding a competitive game, unless he gets special dispensation from Cricket SA to play in one of the three day semi-professional encounters.
After this week’s round of fixtures, the Sunfoil Series goes on break for a week, and with Western Province not in action in the three-day semi professional competition next week either, the only other option - and now the most likely - is a spot in the Invitation XI that will play the Australians in a tour match in Benoni starting next Thursday.
The four Test series starts in Durban on March 1.
“I’d like to play next week, to prove to myself that I’m fully fit and able. Australia is a big series and you don’t want to be going in there with any doubts. So playing next week would help to put aside the physical doubts and prove my fitness to the powers above.”
Bavuma fractured his right ring finger playing a One-Day Cup match for the Cobras last month, and was prescribed six weeks of rehabilitation. He’ll be consulting with doctors later this week.
He’s already tried holding a bat - part of what he described as “low intensity stuff,” - and other sports equipment too.
“I’ve started hitting some golf balls, so I’m happy with that,” he chirped.
Playing the Kingsmead Test remains his main target, but Bavuma, part of the side that won so thrillingly in Australia two years ago, remains unsure how he will fit into the starting XI, given the structure and composition of the Proteas Test team that recently defeated India.
He was left out of the team for the opening Test at Newlands, when the selectors decided to use five bowlers - a ploy that continued throughout the series.
“The only thing I can do different is maybe start bowling 140,” he quipped.
On a more serious note, Bavuma knows runs on the board are difficult to ignore.
“It is the tactic of the team, we started going down the route where we felt our bowling unit, especially given the personnel we have, is our strength. We are trying to maximise that. Whenever I get the opportunity it is up to me to make full use of the opportunity,” Bavuma explained.
Whereas the ploy to produce green and bouncy pitches for India may have worked, it’s not a strategy that will give South Africa a huge advantage against the Australians. Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins will relish bowling in those kinds of conditions too.
“It depends on wickets that will be prepared (for facing Australia)... the Aussies have got a lot of firepower in their bowling, so that neutralises that advantage. We have a lot of trust in our bowling, but also a lot of trust in our batting to stand up against whatever they give. We were able to do it in Australia on quick wickets. Whatever strategy we go with, we have the skill to adapt to whatever comes our way.”
Bavuma neglected to mention that the success in Australia, was achieved with seven batsmen - him batting at no.6 and Quinton de Kock at 7 - while the responsibility for bowling out Steve Smith’s team was left to four bowlers - three seamers and a spinner.