Proteas captain Temba Bavuma is focused on the mission at hand with his team. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Proteas captain Temba Bavuma is focused on the mission at hand with his team. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

’I don’t want to play it too much in my head’ says Proteas captain Temba Bavuma ahead of #T20WorldCup

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Oct 20, 2021

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Johannesburg - The Proteas and World Cups have a treacherous past. Unlike the Springboks and their glorious memories, it serves merely as a teary reminder of broken dreams.

But there is another opportunity on the horizon to bring joy to a nation that has suffered so much.

As usual, there will be large expectations of the Proteas in the United Arab Emirates in the ICC T20 World Cup, with the responsibility now on new captain Temba Bavuma to marshal his troops and lead them into battle in a group that includes current holders the West Indies, favourites England and Australia.

“The pressure is always there, it’s my first world event. This is the only experience I have. I can’t compare it to anything else. We expect ourselves to do well as a team, and that is where the pressure comes from,” Bavuma said.

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Plenty of the noise that has affected previous failed World Cup attempts has hailed from outside the camp. Bavuma is happy to stay in his bubble.

“I don’t want to play it too much in my head. I believe I have done all that I can to hold myself in the coming moments. I really, really don’t think I should be trying new things, or trying out a different Temba – a different version of myself. As I’ve always done, it is to take things day by day, and trust that things will look after themselves if I do the right things,” he said.

Furthermore, Bavuma will have the extra pressure of being the first black African to lead the Proteas in a major ICC tournament.

In a country such as South Africa, with its racially divided past, and the current tribulations related to Cricket SA’s Social Justice and Nation-building hearings that has unveiled deep racial scarring within the game, Bavuma’s elevation to a leadership position is particularly significant.

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He has maintained the stance since March when he was appointed that he hopes to leave a legacy further than just being a black African pioneer, although he is not naïve to its importance in terms of the historical context of South Africa.

“I don’t harp on a lot about being a black African, but it is quite significant, from all angles. You talk about extra pressure, thinking about it now, it adds on to the pressure that is already there,” Bavuma said.

“But it’s also a privilege that I believe I’ve been blessed to have. If the opportunity is there, and the team plays accordingly, we’d like to do something special for the country.”

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To possibly help understand the unique pressure that goes with being a black captain of a South African sports team – and also what it takes to win a major tournament, like the Springboks – Bavuma will have a chat with his mate Siya Kolisi, who led the Boks to World Cup glory in Japan two years ago and followed it up with an epic series win over the British and Irish Lions this year.

“There’s a lot of inspiration we can take from the Springboks. That fight that they have and the resilience they’ve showed over the years, it’s something that we admire. As the Proteas, we bank on our resilience,” Bavuma said. “I will touch base with him (Kolisi).”

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The Proteas have played very well leading up to the tournament, winning away series in the West Indies, Ireland and in Sri Lanka.

A new tactical approach has been adopted, with spin now the crucial mode of attack.

Bavuma is blessed to have three weapons of mass destruction at his disposal in Tabraiz Shamsi, Bjorn Fortuin and Keshav Maharaj — along with a fourth option in part-timer Aiden Markram – to exploit the dry pitches of the UAE desert.

“Obviously I was quite pleased with the outcome, but more than just the victories, it was the way we went about it. The team were super clinical with the bat, and very, very ruthless with the ball,” Bavuma said.

“I find it hard to see how the wickets will get better with so much traffic happening on those pitches. If the conditions do allow us and dictate that we use our slow bowlers, we will definitely do so, like we did in Sri Lanka successfully. If the conditions dictate so, I see no reason why we can’t employ three spinners.”

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Bavuma entered the bio-bubble in Abu Dhabi with an injury concern after missing the Sri Lankan series with a fractured thumb. He is, though, making solid progress, having had his first “live net” last Friday, while he scored 31 off 38 balls in a warm-up match against Afghanistan on Monday as the team build up towards their opening game against Australia on Saturday, October 23.

“My hand is definitely improving by the day,” Bavuma said. “It’s getting stronger, and I am getting a lot more comfortable with it. At the moment, everything is still on track. I am feeling good.”

All the pieces are seemingly slowly coming together. South African cricket fans are certainly hoping so.

@shockerhess

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