Little Temba makes big statement after Newlands knock
Temba Bavuma dropped the "T-word" on Tuesday night. It could easily have been the "F-word" for the normally boisterous media contingent was stunned.
He also used the "B-word". It was that type of a night when Bavuma spoke openly and forthrightly about the issues that have affected him over the past month.
The "T-word" is, of course, transformation. For some it’s a swear word. For others it’s a lifelong cause.
But about the "B-word?"
"Yes, I am black, that's my skin," Bavuma stated to anyone who was not aware.
An innocent bystander would have been caught off guard by Bavuma’s bristling demeanour.
He had just struck a superb 98 – in a 173-run run second-wicket stand with Quinton de Kock, who scored 107 – to help a fledgling Proteas team rout the world champions England by seven wickets.
As splendid as the innings was, and very much deserving of a three-figure milestone and all the plaudits that would have gone with it, the past couple of months have been an emotional rollercoaster for the 29-year-old.
Initially it was the honour of being installed as Test vice-captain for the India tour. Then injury forced Bavuma to sit out the opening Test against England at SuperSport Park before being dropped for the next two coastal Tests, only to be recalled for the series finale at his home ground, the Wanderers.
If that was not enough to deal with Bavuma found himself in the eye of a race war. Social media blew up and the Langa batsman’s omission from the Test squad cut in half an already divided nation.
"It has been hard," Bavuma admitted. "A lot has happened for the good and the bad. A month before, at the end of the MSL, I wouldn’t say things would have panned out the way it’s happened.
"It's not so much the dropping part, all players get dropped, everyone goes through slumps of not scoring well. The awkwardness and uncomfortability from my side is when you are thrown into talks of transformation."
South Africa is a race-driven society. And sport polarizes opinion. Just scroll through the comments section on most local sports websites. It is often the most brutal of environments.
Bavuma is mature enough to accept criticism of his performances. He accepts that comes with the territory. But he has appealed for equality when players are adjudicated.
"The one thing that irks me is when you are seen through the eyes of transformation," he said. "When you do well, transformation is not spoken about but when you do badly, transformation is thrown at the top of the agenda. I have a serious problem with that. We've got to be able to take the good with the bad. If transformation is bad when black African players are not doing well, then when we are doing well, let's also recognise transformation for what it's done.
"I am black, that's my skin. But I play cricket because I love it. I'd like to think the reason I am in the team is because of performances I have put forward in my franchise side, and also for the national team, whenever I have been able to. The discomfort was there, having to navigate myself around all those types of talks. Players get dropped, I am not the last guy to get dropped. That's something we've come to accept."