New dawn approaches as Proteas prepare to take on West Indies 

New dawn approaches as Proteas prepare to take on West Indies 
Temba Bavuma of the Sunrisers, seen here at a post match press conference at Wanderers Stadium on 5 February, 2023 in Johannesburg, will captain the Proteas against West Indies. (Photo:Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Temba Bavuma and Shukri Conrad’s rein as new Test captain and coach of South Africa’s men’s cricket team will start on Tuesday with a challenge against West Indies. 

South Africa’s first Test under the new leadership of captain Temba Bavuma and coach Shukri Conrad starts tomorrow against West Indies at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

The new leadership duo is hopeful that the upcoming two-match Test series will turn the country’s Test cricket fortunes around.

The Proteas have lost four of their last five red-ball matches — against England and Australia — with one draw.

“It’s the start of a new journey. We’d like to start on a clean slate and really go out there and play the way that we’d like to play,” said captain Bavuma.

“You’re going to hear me saying that a lot, in terms of how we want to go about our business. And that’s the exciting bit, to see how it all looks on the field of play.”

South Africa’s series defeat to Australia combined with India’s ongoing destruction of Australia means that the Proteas are out of the running for the World Test Championship final regardless of their result against the Caribbean team.

But Bavuma maintains his side will remain encouraged to put their best foot forward in the upcoming series.

“Just having an opportunity to play for the Proteas, that’s motivation enough. It’s another opportunity for us to represent the country and inspire the nation,” said the skipper.

“I don’t think there’s any bigger motivation than that.”

New faces

Conrad selected a host of new and returning players into the Test match fold as his first duty as red-ball national coach.

One such returning player is Aiden Markram, who Conrad said assuredly will open the batting alongside former captain Dean Elgar.

Dean Elgar, Proteas West Indies

Dean Elgar of South Africa bats during day four of the Third Test match in the series against Australia at Sydney Cricket Ground on 7 January7, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The pair of openers are the two most experienced batters — outside of Bavuma — in the team and will provide the new skipper with able support in his first gig in charge of the Proteas.

“In terms of leaders within the team, there’s guys who’ve been around and been playing Test cricket for quite a while. I’ll definitely be leaning on those guys in terms of knowledge, in terms of ensuring that we’re all speaking the same language in terms of what we’re trying to build,” said the captain.

“We have young guys as well who are potential leaders within the team.

“There’s that added responsibility as being a senior player to impart whatever knowledge and experience you have on those guys so they’re well equipped when the time comes for them to lead the team.”

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The Proteas’ batting department has struggled most in recent years. Only Sarel Erwee and Kyle Verreynne scored Test match hundreds last year and neither have been selected in the Proteas’ squad against West Indies.

Bavuma said the team will rely on the collective effort of all the players to score big totals while scores of 150 and above by individual batters will be “a cherry on the top”.

“As a batsman, I’m hoping for slightly more batting-friendly wickets. But as a captain, the conditions are the conditions,” he said.

“As a team, we have to assess them as well as we can and adapt accordingly and not forget the mindset of trying to be positive and always looking to score in those conditions.

“We know as the batting team we need to score runs to give the bowlers room to do what they need to do.

“Those conversations have happened with the guys on a personal point… we believe we’ve dealt with it as a team.”

West Indies challenge

Despite their two-nil Test series defeat to Australia at the end of last year, West Indies have been in good red-ball form.

“We know we have our work cut out,” said the skipper.

They won four out of their eight Test matches last year and are preparing for the daunting task of beating South Africa at home off the back of a one-nil Test series win in Zimbabwe earlier this month.

They drew the first Test in Bulawayo before beating South Africa’s neighbours by an innings and four runs in the following match a week later.

Kraigg Brathwaite, West Indies

Kraigg Brathwaite of the West Indies plays a shot during day five of the First Test match against Australia at Optus Stadium on 4 December, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo: James Worsfold/Getty Images)

“Looking at [West Indies] over the last while, they play old-fashioned cricket. Batters grind it out. Bowlers looking to hit their areas in and around the off stump,” said Bavuma.

Their batting lineup is led astutely by openers Kraigg Brathwaite and Tagenarine Chanderpaul (son of West Indies legend Shivnarine Chanderpaul).

The pair put up a West Indian record first-wicket partnership of 336 in the first Test match against Zimbabwe. They batted together for 685 balls — a delivery short of longest opening stand in Test history.

“They’ve got guys who can stand up to the challenge, well led by Kraigg Brathwaite,” said Bavuma.

“We have prepared against them as well as we would for any opposition.”

“When you look at their bowling attack, they have a few guys that can get the ball through [fast]. That’s something that you always need when you play against a country like South Africa.” DM


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