Temba Bavuma is no token Proteas captain
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Dubai - Every morning that Temba Bavuma wakes up, someone is telling him why he is not fit to be Proteas captain.
Some even push the envelope further by stating that Bavuma should not even be in the T20 team.
The derision often surrounds his batting style, or lack thereof, in T20s. According to social media it is simply that Bavuma does not have what it takes as either a batsman or captain and should in fact step aside from the shortest format.
Factor in the South African context and the slope gets disturbingly slipperier with the rather thinly-veiled insinuations that Bavuma only captains the team because he is black.
No consideration is given to the fact that Bavuma is one of less than a handful South Africans who have struck a T20 century in a domestic final - in 2019 against the Warriors - and successfully led the Highveld Lions to consecutive T20 Challenge titles.
Furthermore, he has led the Proteas in 12 T20s, which includes four matches at the T20 World Cup, and guided them to nine victories in the process. That’s a 75% win ratio. Equally, Bavuma has steered the Proteas to more victories already at a T20 World Cup than former Proteas skipper AB de Villiers and just one less than Faf du Plessis.
That’s just his on the field contribution.
Bavuma earned global praise for the diplomatic manner in which handled the explosive Quinton de Kock #Kneegate saga. In a week where chaos reigned, Bavuma was the sole voice of reason.
A small man he may be, but he is a giant in stature.
As Kagiso Rabada so eloquently stated after the thrashing of Bangladesh on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi: “With Temba ... the results are there. There is nothing more to say about that.”
But yet the Proteas captain continues to be lambasted on social media with his critics seemingly wearing Bavuma-hater tinted glasses.
The canny field placing, such as the gully that led to Rabada’s third Bangladeshi wicket, goes unnoticed. The ability to trust his instinct and give Rabada a third over within the powerplay to allow him the freedom to strike with the new ball, which led to David Warner’s dismissal in the Australian encounter is overlooked.
Nevermind the deadly accuracy and electricity in the field that provides crucial wickets.
Once again, though, its left to Rabada to provide a sober perspective.
“You will always have critics and it'’ something we make peace with. You can’t take the good without the bad. But we back Temba all the way,” Rabada said.
“Whatever people have to say outside of the game, it’s okay. We can’t control that. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. In saying that, we see a lot of value in people who actually genuinely support us.”
The centre-point of the criticism is Bavuma’s strike-rate, which, of course, is such a crucial aspect of T20 cricket. So far, at the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, Bavuma has contributed 91 runs at an average of 30.33 and strike-rate of 108.33.
The global standard for a good strike-rate in T20 cricket is 120-plus. However, besides England and Pakistan’s free-flowing openers, there have been precious few batters who have been able to strike the ball freely on weary surfaces at the T20 World Cup.
Intelligence has been required at the crease with the manipulation of the field and running hard between the wickets being of premium consequence. The ability to absorb pressure after the loss of early wickets has also been of paramount importance.
Bavuma had done all of this with aplomb, often stabilising a brittle Proteas batting unit, through his understanding of the conditions and match situations.
It is unlikely that his detractors are suddenly going to see the light until Bavuma actually returns home with the T20 World Cup.
SA are by no means at that stage yet, but they are at least still battling away and giving themselves every chance to be in the ring for the final showdown that is now just three games away.
Bavuma, though, knows that before they can even begin dreaming of bigger things they firstly need to overcome an old foe, England, that have proven to be their nemesis of late.
“It's a big game (against England), every game has been for us. Looking at the competition the way it is, it’s one that we want to play our best cricket. England have had the better of us recently, and we would like to make amends,” Bavuma said.
The Proteas may not go to win the T20 World Cup but they have certainly unearthed a leader that SA can be proud of. And again in the context of SA’s lack of leadership at large, that is certainly an accomplishment.