Until last Sunday, when he scored a fabulous century in the T20 Challenge final for the Highveld Lions, Bavuma had kept that disappointment under wraps. But throughout this season he’s made a point when playing domestic white-ball cricket. He can thrive as both a 50-over player and indeed a 20-over one, as can all players who, like him, have efficient, well grooved techniques.
On the one hand, his dismay about not being considered for the World Cup is understandable, but on the flip side Bavuma needed the room that domestic cricket provides to perform in this way to prove to others – selectors, media and spectators – that he can offer value as a limited-overs player.
Never mind the fact that he has only played two ODIs – scoring a century on debut against Ireland and then a run-a-ball 48 against Bangladesh a year later, both times as opener – but Bavuma had played too little domestic limited-overs cricket in the two seasons before the 2018/19 summer, and thus never got to properly state his case for more consideration at the highest level.
In that time, Rassie van der Dussen started to refine his game and find consistency, as did Reeza Hendricks, while Heinrich Klaasen, Khaya Zondo, JJ Smuts, Theunis de Bruyn and Christiaan Jonker were all given chances based on form at domestic level.
Bavuma was either injured - as was the case in 2017/18 when he was at the Cape Cobras - not deemed a quick enough scorer, or he was away on Test duty with the Proteas.
This season he’s been both fit and, with a limited Test schedule for the national side, he’s been able to give the domestic white-ball formats greater attention.
It’s proved hugely beneficial personally, where, as Bavuma admitted, he freed his mind and allowed himself to play more aggressively, not minding what, as he put it, “people will say if I get out in a stupid manner”.
From a Proteas perspective, he’s certainly put himself in the frame for One-Day selection next summer and from a Test viewpoint, this newly found intent he’s been playing with may allow him to finally add to the one Test hundred he’s made and add an extra layer to the debate about playing him at No 4 in the order.
Bavuma may not have liked being overlooked for this year’s World Cup but it’s proved a blessing in disguise. He has had the room at domestic level to explore parts of his game he believed he had but was too afraid to display publicly.
Now that he knows what he can do, and is unafraid to do it, we may see a better version of Bavuma, one who will be critically important to the Proteas in all areas in the foreseeable future.@shockerhess