Gqeberha - The journey of an international cricketer is filled with many more downs than ups and that was epitomised by Temba Bavuma’s magnificent century in a losing cause against the West Indies in the second One-Day International in East London on Saturday.
It has been a tough journey in international cricket for Bavuma, particularly in the last 12 months. The loss to the Netherlands in the T20 World Cup capped off what is certainly the darkest period of his career, but the captain has found a way to put all that past him.
In his own unique way, Bavuma has found the best form of his life in 2023. Like a diamond, only high pressure could birth the brightest version of Bavuma.
After his 144 off 118 balls at Buffalo Park, Bavuma did what he does best - to give credit to the team for his own success and that of the team.
"I’m feeding off the confidence that I’m getting from the players as well as the new coaches,” said Bavuma after his side were bowled out for 287 in reply to the West Indies’ 335/8, which resulted in a 48-run for the visitors.
“I’m enjoying my cricket at this point in time. My mind is a lot more clearer as to what we’re trying to do and how we are trying to do that.”
He has been ridiculed and criticised for not only his own shortcomings, but also that of the team he leads. But Bavuma showed nothing but grace to his critics as they kept eating away at his self-confidence and belief.
The man from KwaLanga has had to look deep within himself to find strength again, with the help of mentor-coach Shukri Conrad and Rob Walter.
Bavuma attested to finding self-confidence again and is doing a great job building on it steadily, one century at a time.
“(The skill) has always been there to be honest. I think it’s just been a confidence thing. Confidence is a big thing for any sportsman,” said Bavuma.
"I’m just trying to carry on from the form, from the momentum that I got from the England series. I’m hitting the ball quite nicely at the moment and I’m managing to find gaps which is a big thing for me as a stroke player. I can only hope everything continues the way it is.”
All the challenges he has come across in his journey have created just the right kind of leader and mentor for the youngsters in the squad. Bavuma is a lot more patient and most importantly conscious of the stage they are in in their careers.
The captain pleaded for the four debutants to be given time to acclimatise to international cricket and even threw in a few glowing words of appreciation for their efforts in a difficult run chase in East London.
“It’s rare that you see four debutants get given a go at the same time. Our hand was forced a bit with illnesses and injuries but with that said I think it was valuable experience for the guys that came in. Gerald Coetzee bowled quite well, bowled with good aggression on a wicket that didn’t really offer him that usual pace and bounce that he’s so accustomed to,” he said.
“Tony as well came in at a tricky time, the pressure was on and the expectation for him was to come in and play at the expected run rate and I think he did that quite well. Stubbsy has gotten a taste of international cricket, he can only grow. A guy like Rickelton as well, it’s just a matter of taking whatever learnings that they get from it and grow."