Bavuma’s ODI omission due to ‘mental toll’ of World Cup and Test match preparation
South Africa’s pace attack, along with Test captain Temba Bavuma, will play a round of domestic four-day cricket to prepare for the two-match Test series against India.
One-day international (ODI) captain Temba Bavuma will not take part in the three-match 50-over series against India this month.
Instead, Bavuma — who is also the Proteas’ Test captain — will take a break from the game before returning to domestic cricket for a four-day series match for the Lions from 14-17 December in preparation for the Test series.
Kagiso Rabada is in the same boat, while the other fast bowlers, Marco Jansen, Gerald Coetzee and Lungi Ngidi will be available for selection for the opening two T20Is against India before joining their skipper and Rabada on the four-day circuit.
“We’re prioritising readiness for the Test matches, given it’s the start of the World Test Championship,” said ODI coach Rob Walter at a press conference on Monday.
That round of four-day matches clashes with the ODI series against India, so the entire pace attack is unavailable for the three 50-over matches.
“Other players had the option as well,” Test coach Shukri Conrad said.
“This is where we have to trust the players in terms of what their ideal preparation looks like. I’m comfortable with what’s come back.
“I’m really looking forward to a refreshed bowling attack as well as having had adequate preparation for the Test series.”
Bavuma still captain
Despite being omitted from the 50-over side for the series against India, Walter confirmed that Bavuma remains the leader of the team.
“There’s no change, he’s the skipper of the ODI side. He’s been phenomenal throughout the year,” Walter said.
“Also there’s a mental toll to the pressures of a World Cup and the scrutiny of a skipper through all of that.
“So, it’s important for him to be able to step away from the game for a little while and just prioritise being ready for the Test matches.”
Bavuma has been the Proteas’ most prolific Test batter for the past three years.
“Again, the Test matches are our priority and in order to make sure our best players are in the best shape for those games, that drives our decision-making,” Walter said.
“Whilst it may seem like a progressive decision, it’s actually pretty easy to make those kinds of calls.
“If the player and the two of us [Conrad and Walter] are all on the same page … it made sense, it was the right thing to do, it was the right thing to do for Temba and his cricket as well.
Walter and Conrad — who have served as the selectors of their respective squads since the start of their tenures — worked together to assemble the three squads with a particular focus on winning the Test series.
India have never won a Test series in South Africa.
The two coaches have called up several youngsters in the white-ball squads to help relieve the burdened shoulders of a few of the players who travelled to India for the recent World Cup — where South Africa lost to eventual champions Australia in the semifinals.
“There’s no doubt that there’s a significant mental and physical toll on everyone,” Walter said.
“Hence the decision to give all players at least a 10-day step-away from the game, for both physical and mental reasons.
“Unfortunately, the reality of it is, you have to get back on the horse. You have to play again.
“I never underestimate what playing for your country does. I think the inclusion of some fresh energy really does bring a different dynamic to a squad.
“Even if the majority of the squad was in India, having some fresh energy around the group definitely adds to being back in the green and gold for South Africa.
“I think you’ll see a highly committed team; I have no doubt about that.”
By most objective viewpoints, South Africa outperformed expectations at the World Cup and, according to Walter, the side is moving forward in a positive way.
“The general sense after the tournament — even on the last day or two together that we were in India — was actually a real positive sentiment,” the white-ball coach said.
“Of course, it’s disappointing to miss out — it knocks you hard in terms of the disappointment of doing that — but the guys were proud and I was super proud of the way they played.” DM