Temba Bavuma — In defence of a sportsman struggling to find his form
South Africa captain Temba Bavuma averages a shade above 20 in the ongoing Cricket World Cup. His current frailties with the bat have been overshadowed by the strength of the rest of the batting order. However, he remains the best option to take the team forward.
Proteas’ skipper Temba Bavuma has been poor with the bat in the ongoing Cricket World Cup. His top score in the tournament was a scratchy 35 off 55 against Australia in the side’s second match.
That didn’t matter too much as red-hot Quinton de Kock struck a delightful century to guide South Africa to a 134-run win over the old foes.
Bavuma looked good for his 28 off 27 against Pakistan, and his 24 off 28 against New Zealand, before throwing both starts away.
The captain currently averages 20.33 in the tournament at a lowly strike rate of 73.93. That does not make for pretty reading.
But in reality, the situation could not be more different. Bavuma is an extraordinary 50-over cricketer. Despite his six glum innings in the tournament, he still averages 48 in the format.
The rest of the top six have been in excellent form – and the Proteas have won six out of eight matches – which has largely masked his struggles with the willow.
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Outside of David Miller, every other batter in the top six has notched up a century already in the World Cup.
De Kock is the leading run-scorer in the competition with 550, which includes four centuries. Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen are both in the top ten run-scorers. Markram has 371 and Van der Dussen 366, averaging 53 and 45.75 respectively.
Heinrich Klaasen has been expectedly destructive in the middle order, notching up 316 runs at 45.14, and a scarcely believable strike rate of 144.29.
Miller has 231 at an average of 38.5, but is lashing the ball cleanly with a superb strike rate of 127.62.
There is no shortage of runs but the team needs their captain to lead from the front.
Reeza Hendricks replacement?
The replacement batter in the Proteas’ World Cup squad is Reeza Hendricks. Hendricks came in for an ill Bavuma against England and Bangladesh, where he struck 85 off 75, and 12 off nine, respectively.
At face value, the scenario is eerily similar to last year’s T20 World Cup when Bavuma hit 70 runs in five innings, while leading the side to a group stage exit while on-form Hendricks sat on the bench.
But in reality, the situation could not be more different. Bavuma is an extraordinary 50-over cricketer. Despite his six glum innings in the tournament, he still averages 48 in the format. He averaged 71 this year heading into the tournament, and knocked three centuries and two half-centuries to guide the side to qualifying for the World Cup in the first place.
Hendricks, in comparison, has one career century – a delightful 102 he struck on ODI debut – while his career average is under 30, and he strikes at 80.41 compared to Bavuma’s 89.37.
Hendricks’ stats this year are slightly better than his career stats, averaging 43.20 at a strike rate of 92.30 — which are both less than a struggling Bavuma’s.
While Hendricks has proven to be an able replacement, statistically, there is daylight between the two batters in the 50-over format.
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Bavuma’s opening partner, De Kock, has suggested that a big score is imminent for the captain.
‘Keeps finding a way to keep getting out’
“I think Temba has been batting very well. He’s looked very solid up front, and then somehow just keeps finding a way to keep getting out,” De Kock told SuperSport after the team’s win over New Zealand.
“He’s still feeling very good about his own game. Temba always backs himself, which is a good thing and a good trait to have.
“He’s not fazed, at least I hope he’s not, he doesn’t look like he is but the last couple of innings he’s batted really well, then found ways to get out.
“It’s something all of us batters have gone through in our careers, where we feel really good but somehow find a way to get ourselves out.
“I’ve got a feeling in one or two of these games – especially in an important game – that’s when he’s going to come through for us. That’s Temba Bavuma in a package.”
Bavuma’s reputation as a back-to-the-wall batter has been evident throughout his international career.
The Proteas men’s team have never made a World Cup final and – having secured a place in the semi-final of the tournament already – the opportunity to silence naysayers and do justice to his record and selection is around the corner. DM