Monday, April 20, 2020

Potential Test Captains: Temba Bavuma

With Quinton de Kock having been eliminated from the running to be captain of the South African national team, the remaining nominees have basically selected themselves. First up is the diminutive maestro, Temba Bavuma.

The general rule of thumb in the modern game is to pick your best XI, and then pick your captain from that best XI. This was not always the case, however, with men like Dr. Ali Bacher and Mike Brearley both having been made Test captain despite arguably not being part of the best XI players in their respective national set up. Cricket is different from other sports when it comes to captaincy. In other sports, the role of captain is a largely off-field job. How much can having Ronaldo as captain actually change your fortunes, for example? While I'm sure he's an inspirational figure, he is responsible for none of the tactical decisions made in the flow of a game. Not directly anyway. In contrast to this, the role of Test captain may be the single most important job an athlete can hold in all of sports. It's the captains role to decide who bowls when, and who fields where. Basically, to actually captain the team. In some respects, however the captain is also responsible for selecting the team. Which is where the difficulty of making Temba Bavuma the captain arises.

Of the three presumed contestants, Bavuma has the most proven track record as a captain. He guided the Lions to their 2018/19 First class competition victory, which is a higher qualification than Dean Elgar or Aiden Markram can claim. He also won the 2019 CSA T20 Challenge with the Lions as skipper. In other words, his tactical abilities seem to hold up against the light. Where things go pear-shaped at the moment, is that Bavuma is the least secure member of the batting line up by a long way. With only one century 40 Tests and an average of 30, it will be hard for Bavuma to make any definite stamps on the team when his own standing in the team, from a merit point of view anyway, is so tenuous. It would be unfair to expect a player to accept from someone 30-odd that they are not good enough to play for the team that week. Something that won't be mentioned, but that will almost certainly go against Bavuma, is that at 5'5, he would be by some distance the shortest captain in South African cricket history. Traditionally, South Africa has tended to prefer their captains to be physically imposing. Indeed, post isolation, 1.8m Faf du Plessis has been the shortest member of the Permanent Protea Captain Club. 

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