Saturday, September 28, 2019

Big Pressure on Little Temba

First things first, South African cricket is going through something of a metamorphosis. Hashim Amla's retirement from the game as well as Dale Steyn's retirement from Test cricket has lost South Africa about 220 Tests worth of experience. It would have been a lot to expect the absolute best version of the South African cricket team to go to India, who have only lost one home Test, not series, Test, in 7 years and win. To expect a team undergoing change to compete with serious hopes of winning is probably a little much. But, we are South Africans. Expecting too much is what we do. Always has been.

On that note, it's time to speak about the elephant in the batting room. Not Quinton de Kock wasting away at 7, only coming in when the game is gone. No, the other elephant in the room. In case you missed it, Temba Bavuma has been named the team's vice captain, and with Faf du Plessis a not young 35-years old, it does stand to reason that Bavuma is the next in line to hold the most important seat in South African sports. Yes, the Springboks are more popular, but no one in the Bok team has as much sway over the result of a game as the captain of the cricket team. One of the most basic tenets of being the captain of a cricket team is that your own place in the team needs to be almost beyond reproach. The Proteas of course fly in the face of this logic, and we do it often. Graeme Smith was a wily veteran all of eight Tests into his career when he was made captain. Faf du Plessis was actually dropped the Test before he took over as captain for an injured AB de Villiers. We take big risks with our captains, and for the most part, it seems to not end in tragic failure. That said though, Graeme Smith had more tons than Bavuma has now when he was made captain. Faf du Plessis had a fourth innings hundred and a legendary ton on debut in Adelaide on his ledger when he started his career as captain. Bavuma has a solitary ton, on what may have been the most docile track ever produced in Newlands. At no stage in his career has Bavuma averaged more than 40, and his highest average for a calendar year is 42. Also, for a man who is renowned as something of a man for the tough situations, he averages 24 in the second innings of a game. That is not particularly impressive. In fact, it is like... not good, as the millenials would say.

Given the fact that one (or both) of Zubayr Hamza and Theunis de Bruyn will be in the match day, trying desperately to lock up their positions in the side, it is imperative that the senior players step up and not give them the added pressure of trying to save/win the game for the Proteas.

At 29 years of age, Bavuma should be at the peak of his powers, and South Africa are going to need him to step up his game heading into the future in general, but this tour specifically. How wonderful it would be for him to formally announce himself as a major player in the batting world with a huge series vs India. If he doesn't, the handover is going to be awkward, to borrow another millenial term.

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