Johannesburg - Temba Bavuma admits that he was glad to see the back of the 2021/22 summer, one in which he and his Proteas teammates dealt with more drama than all five seasons of ‘The Wire’ combined.
“I can’t lie, I was relieved. It felt like a very long season,” Bavuma, the Proteas captain in the limited overs formats said on Wednesday.
In his first home season as captain, he had to deal with the consequences of Cricket SA’s new Board’s directive that players kneel to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, the fallout from Quinton de Kock choosing not to do so at the T20 World Cup, the SJN volcano that erupted around Mark Boucher, direct qualification for next year’s World Cup, which has not been secured yet, his own form with the bat (which was admittedly good), a raucous Test series against India and a tough tour in New Zealand, bio bubbles and at the end of it all a broken finger.
“Ya, when that last Test finished, I was really looking forward to my four to five weeks off.”
Bavuma hasn’t looked at his bat since.
It was a season that tested him both physically, mentally and emotionally. On reflection, the 32-year-old, said everything the team had to deal with provided opportunities for growth.
“I don’t look at it so much in terms of performances - and much of our performances were good - but I think, the relationships between the guys are a lot tighter, deeper, there’s authenticity behind it and guys really go out there and play for each other,” he said.
“The guys are now in a situation where they understand different perspectives, each other’s backgrounds, and all those things that sway their thinking. There is a lot more empathy behind everything that we do. I believe the team achieved growth out of that.”
It was by no means easy. There were lots of difficult conversations behind closed doors and more was put on Bavuma’s plate than a lot of other captains have to deal with.
“The off-field drama surrounding the team and the coach particularly, that was hard. It was hard for the coach, it was hard for the players…what helped in those situations was the conversations we had. We had situations where we sat in a room (together) and guys could speak. If there were any differences, if guys felt any type of way they had the opportunity to voice them. That was between players, between management, those kinds of conversations helped us to navigate I guess the off-field drama that was surrounding the team.”
Bavuma said his relationship with Boucher, who last week saw racism charges made against him by Cricket SA, withdrawn by the organisation, remains good. “I think our relationship has grown over the last year. My role, with the drama that was happening, was still to keep the team together and focussed on cricket.”
“The guys were there to support the coach in whatever he needed. That is another aspect that has grown within the team, the relationship between the coach and myself,” he explained.
Bavuma said the way in which he handled the controversy created by De Kock choosing not to kneel at the T20 World Cup and subsequently withdrawing from the team just minutes before the match against the West Indies , and the compliments he received from many quarters, helped his own growth as a leader.
“It was a challenging time,” he chuckled. “From a confidence point of view it did me a world of good. The feedback from people after that event, and specifically how I handled that issue was very positive. I think it helped in terms of getting the confidence and belief not just amongst the players but the cricketing community back in South Africa and internationally as well. For the team it showed us something that we can learn. It was a tough time, a tough moment for us. I think as a team we came out of it better.”