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CRICKET

Bavuma SA20 auction snub does not diminish his stature with the Proteas

Bavuma SA20 auction snub does not diminish his stature with the Proteas
Proteas coach Mark Boucher (left) and white ball captain Temba Bavuma. (Photo: Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

Proteas coach Mark Boucher gave skipper Temba Bavuma his 100% backing after the captain was snubbed at the recent SA20 auction.

Proteas white ball captain Temba Bavuma is no stranger to questions about his ability. It’s the baggage he’s carried with dignity ever since emerging as the only black batter in domestic cricket with a legitimate claim to being potentially world class.

He’s suffered ridicule and more scrutiny over his performances than any other batter because, in some quarters, he was viewed as a quota player. A man thrust above his station because of being black.

It’s nonsense of course.

He’s not AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla or Jacques Kallis, but those three players were generational talents, whose careers intersected to form one of the best batting units international cricket has known. 

For almost all black players, the stigma of being “a quota”, is a crushing burden. No matter how many good innings Bavuma has played, the bad ones are jumped on as proof that he doesn’t deserve his place. 

Unflinching

Cricket is perhaps the most brutal of sports because it’s a numbers game. The stats are always there to drag you down. Or sometimes, to lift you up. Reading batters’ numbers is an exercise in cold, hard facts without nuance.

There is no accounting for the condition of the pitch, the weather or the state of a match. There is no column indicating how strong the team around you are, or how good the opposition bowlers were. The numbers are just there, like digits on a restaurant bill, which tell you nothing about the quality of the food and service.

Bavuma has always faced these criticisms and slights with the same tenacity he shows at the crease. Facing the barrage head on and not flinching. Always quietly showing his class.

He has obviously had tough discussions with coaches and selectors before and has privately been asked to be better and score more runs. One of current Proteas coach Mark Boucher’s first acts was to drop Bavuma from the Test side before the 2019/20 home series against England.

Boucher said Bavuma needed to score some runs domestically to earn a recall. Which is exactly what he did and Boucher, consistent in his message, recalled him.

Hurting 

bavuma sa20

‘He’s our leader and we back him like you can’t believe,’ said Proteas coach Mark Boucher about his captain Temba Bavuma (right). (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

But this week Bavuma suffered a very public humiliation. At the inaugural SA20 player auction, the Proteas skipper went unsold from a reserve price of R850,000. No one has the right to be bought of course, and for all players who go on auction and are unsold, it’s a blow to the ego.

Yet, reading Bavuma’s cold stats, making sense of why he was overlooked at the auction is even more perplexing. In 25 T20Is, Bavuma averages 26.76 at a strike rate of 120.6.

In T20 cricket those are good numbers. Throw in his leadership abilities, excellent fielding and experience, and it’s difficult to fathom what cricketing reasons the SA20 clubs saw for omitting such a quality player.

For the national skipper, going unsold was doubly upsetting. The social media gang were quick to shout about “being in the real world now”. As if Bavuma doesn’t know about the real world.

This is a man who has dealt with more realpolitik, in a sporting sense, than any keyboard warrior out there. He stood up strongly and gracefully for teammate Quinton de Kock, who refused a directive from Cricket South Africa (CSA) to take a knee as a symbol of support for the Black Lives Matter movement just hours before the team’s opening game of the 2021 T20I World Cup.

Bavuma didn’t even know the full reasons for De Kock’s decision when he had a microphone shoved in his face and was asked to explain. He backed his teammate and friend and continued to stand up for him. That’s leadership.

Feeling low 

But he wouldn’t be human if the SA20 slight didn’t hurt.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have any feelings of disappointment,” Bavuma said prior to the Proteas’ departure for India, where they will play three T20Is and three One-Day Internationals.

“Obviously one expected to play a role in the tournament (SA20). But it’s not just me, it’s Andile (Phehlukwayo) too, a man who’s played a lot of white ball cricket for South Africa.

“From my side, there are feelings of disappointment.” 

Bavuma, who appeared despondent and also to be nursing a cold, dismissed the notion that he was guaranteed a slot in SA20.

“I almost feel let down in a way. I don’t think it comes down to any entitlement on my side,” he said.

“I also have to caution myself from delving too deep into it. It’s probably not the right time. As much as I want to perhaps speak about the issue too, it’s not the right time. Our focus is India and the T20 World Cup.”

Boucher, who will leave his post after the T20I World Cup in Australia next month, was careful about how he commented on the SA20 League. He was, however, unequivocal in his support of Bavuma.

“First of all, I wasn’t involved in that, unfortunately. Nor am I involved in any coaching in the tournament,” Boucher said.

“But one thing that I can say is that leagues come and go. I have full respect for the new T20 league that’s been formed. I understand its importance to South African cricket, that it’s needed.

“However, let’s separate the national team from the league. Temba Bavuma is our leader and I back him 100%. Yes, there’s a lot of talk in social media. I don’t care.

“He’s our leader and we back him like you can’t believe,” said Boucher. “The guys were in each other’s company last night, we were having a couple of drinks and I could just see the energy around him because his teammates understand what he’s going through.

“The bottom line is, we’ve been on a journey for the last two years. He’s been a massive part of it. We back him like you can’t believe.

“What happens in leagues, you can’t control. From a Protea perspective, we back him fully going into a massive tournament like the T20 World Cup. As a coach, I back him 100%. Simple as that.” DM

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  • Jeff Bolus says:

    Stay strong Temba Bavuma. You are a proud South African and a fine leader, both on and off the field. Your injury-enforced absence in the recent Test series against England left a visible hole in the Proteas batting lineup. Well done to Mark Boucher for backing the captain 100%. Btw, didn’t Dean Elgar also lose out in the T20 auction …. these things happen !

  • Dirk Versfeld says:

    Thank you Ray for setting out how hard it can be for some. Go Go Go Themba – we love you and want you on the field and off it.

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