Cape Town — The double white-ball world champions are in town.
But where once an England tour was the blue riband prize of the summer, they have now been relegated to the backwaters of Bloemfontein, where the first of the three-match ODI series gets underway on Friday, and Kimberley.
Such is the lay of the land in South African cricket at the moment. The craze is Betway SA20. And everything else has to suckle off its hind tit.
It becomes even more bizarre with the fact that Proteas Men’s white-ball captain Temba Bavuma, who will spin the coin at the Mangaung Oval, has been resting up on Cape Town’s beaches while the new action-packed tournament has been underway after being overlooked at the inaugural auction.
In contrast, his English counterpart Jos Buttler is the one of the tournament’s major success stories as the leading run-scorer.
“The last two weeks I have been taking it easy. I had the opportunity to connect with my family, deal with issues from that point of view. It has been really relaxing. I have tried to watch one of two games of the SA20. It looks quite fun, looks exciting,” Bavuma said.
“I guess it seems unusual. But it has happened that way. There is nothing really I can do about it. As unusual it may seem, people have to go on. I am definitely among those people that keep moving on. Whatever comes my way, comes my way. I will always try to keep a smile on my face irrespective of what happens.”
Bavuma has not had much to smile about in recent times. Besides the Proteas’ T20 side’s shocking defeat to the Netherlands that led to their exit from the T20 World Cup in Australia, the position of the ODI team in the World Super League is of grave concern.
This has left Bavuma and his team with having to virtually clean sweep England over the course of the three-match series to avoid having to qualify for the World Cup in India later this year.
Bavuma, though, has adopted a pragmatic approach to the Proteas’ circumstances, especially after Cricket SA withdrew the national men’s team from three ODI’s in Australia to accommodate the launch of the SA20.
“If we have to play in the qualifiers in June/July, then so be it, that’s something we are prepared to do. That’s something everyone is prepared to do, looking at the decision that was made a couple of months ago relating to SA20. Those are the cards in front of us, so we’ll deal with it as best we can,” he said.
Bavuma would also like to approach the England series with a broader mindset than simply focusing on the result. He fully understands the importance of the upcoming series, but has left the door open for some experimentation in the starting line-up for Friday.
“We would like to shift our focus, going up to the World Cup. I think there is an opportunity for us to really clear up our identity and how we would like to play.
“We would like to use these games as an opportunity to do that. You might see some new faces within the team. You might see guys coming in different roles,” he said.
Temba Bavuma (capt), Quinton de Kock, Heinrich Klaasen, Rassie van der Dussen, Keshav Maharaj, Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Sisanda Magala, Janneman Malan, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi.
Jos Buttler (capt), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Harry Brook, Sam Curran, Ben Duckett, Dawid Malan. Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Phil Salt, Olly Stone, Reece Topley, David Willey, Chris Woakes.
Start Time: 1:30pm TV: SuperSport 212