Temba Bavuma is urging people to look after one another in light of the recent GBV and Xenophobic attacks. Photo: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix
Often professional sports people can be accused of residing in a false world. Due to the privileges they enjoy, they can become detached from the daily struggles.

However, even though the Proteas are preparing for an all-important T20I series starting against India in Dharamsala today (3.30pm SA time start), batsman Temba Bavuma admits the team has been affected by the recent gender-based violence protests and xenophobic attacks taking place back home.

“It’s been a bit daunting for us as South Africans since we’ve been away from home,” Bavuma said.

“We are trying to enjoy yourselves and play for the people back home but there’s actually bigger issues affecting the nation - the issue with women abuse and the xenophobia attacks that have also come to light again.

“As players, it’s scary because we also have wives; we’ve got women in our lives. The last thing we want to do is for them to get embroiled with it. We’ve also got friends who are foreigners and you don’t want anything to happen to them.

“As a South African and a Protea on behalf of the guys, we want to send a voice and a word of encouragement to the people back home. Come on, let’s look after each other.”

Bavuma has endured struggles of his own. Despite making his Test debut here in India almost four years ago, he is still awaiting his maiden T20I cap. It is expected to come today at the HPCA Stadium.

The wait was largely due to Bavuma being pigeon-holed as a “Test specialist” - a myth the 29-year-old has worked extremely hard on eradicating the past 12 months.

“Back home there’s a perception that I’m a red-ball player. As a player you are put through a lot of challenges. There’s lot of pressure as an international player.

“People are quick to label you as a certain type of player and that could be a good and a bad thing. Proving people wrong is always an extra bit of motivation,” he said.

“Last year I made a conscious effort to improve my white-ball game. I tried to play as many as T20 games as I could in amateur cricket and all the other competitions there. Even in our domestic cricket. And these were the goals that I set. Things that I wanted to achieve and not what other people are saying. You only want to be listening to the voice between your ears as an international player and not all the noise out there.”

Bavuma has already shown in the longest format that he is the man for a crisis whenever the Proteas have had their backs against the wall.

With the Proteas set to field a youthful XI against Virat Kohli’s IPL superstars of India, it seems likely that the visitors will have to depend on Bavuma’s fighting qualities again if they are to compete.

The little right-hander is certainly looking forward to playing his part.

“I’m 29 at the moment. I’m sure when I get the debut, I’m going to feel I’m 21 again. It’s just another opportunity to contribute to the team’s winning cause.”

Proteas T20 squad v India:

Quinton de Kock (capt), Rassie van der Dussen (vice-capt), Temba Bavuma, Junior Dala, Bjorn Fortuin, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, David Miller, Anrich Nortjé, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, George Linde


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