Stats don’t tell the full story for Bavuma

Published Mar 16, 2017

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JOHANNESBURG - Temba Bavuma made an interesting point about statistics in a chat he had with the media in Wellington this week.

We all like stats in sport. It makes all of us look very smart when we can reel off a bunch of numbers. Batting average, strike rate, economy rate. To be fair, we’re not as consumed by sport stats as they are in the USA. As a fan of basketball and specifically the NBA, I’ve had to grow accustomed to an avelanche of stats - points per game, rebounds per game (offensive and defensive) assists, steals, blocks etc and that’s just the basics.

There are many that believe cricket doesn’t make sufficient use of statistics and that the sport can learn from baseball where analytics play a big part in how teams are constructed.

“Stats,” said Bavuma, “are a big part of cricket, especially as a batter.”

“At the end of the day, you are judged on your stats. My mentality is always to try and contribute to the team but there is that fine balance of making sure your numbers are also in order. That’s probably the most disappointing thing thus far with my international career. I have contributed to the side but probably my numbers don’t justify all of that.”

That’s quite true. Bavuma has played 18 Tests, has scored 730 runs at average of 30.41 per innings. Those aren’t very good statistics for an international batsman. And yet Bavuma has played some very important innings, much better ones than his famous hundred. There was the 78 not out against England at Centurion in 2016, a 40 not out too on a snakepit at the same ground against New Zealand last August and a two and half hour 34 while playing as an opener against India in Delhi.

His two half-centuries last year against Australia were crucial elements in the series win there. He steadied a very unstable South African first innings in Perth with 51 and then drove home their advantage in the second Test when he made 74 in Hobart.

Innings like that don’t light up the stats sheet like a hundred does, but you could argue they are of far greater value to the team.

That’s not to say statistics should be ignored, but to borrow from Bavuma’s remark, there’s a balance that needs to be struck. Too often we are quick to dismiss a player’s worth because the statistics don’t shape up. They are but one way to measure a player.

When he makes runs is almost as important as how many he scores. As a friend of mine tweeted during Bavuma’s innings in Dunedin: “What nobody said at the time was that when @tbavuma10 wasn’t scoring runs, SA didn’t need them. When they do, he does”.

Cape Argus

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