Temba Bavuma finds time to mull issues in troubled SA as T20 debut looms

Temba Bavuma is looking forward to the T20 series against India which starts on Sunday September 15 2019.
Temba Bavuma is looking forward to the T20 series against India which starts on Sunday September 15 2019.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

On a clear day at Dharamshala’s wedding cake of a cricket ground you can see the Dhauladhar mountains — part of the Himalayas — looming out of the Kangra Valley.

The scene is as close to being on another planet as Mzansians can find. But while you can take the South African out of South Africa …

“It’s been daunting‚” Temba Bavuma said in the northern Indian city on Friday.

“We’re here trying to play for the people back home‚ but there are bigger issues affecting the nation. The whole issue with woman abuse‚ the xenophobic attacks — it’s scary.

“We also have wives. We’ve got women in our lives. The last thing we want is for women to get embroiled in all of that.

“We have friends who are foreigners‚ and the last thing you want to hear is that something has happened to them.

“So as a South African and as a Protea‚ on behalf of the guys we’d like to send a voice‚ a word of encouragement to the people back home.

“Let’s look after each other. As the Proteas we are diverse but united‚ and we’d like the same thing back home.”

You can go to the ends of the earth but you can’t get away from reality‚ and it’s admirable that Bavuma didnt try to do so.

In journalistic terms‚ he’s the reporter who hears shooting and runs towards it‚ not away.

But Bavuma is likely to have to concern himself with the less important business of playing cricket on Sunday‚ when he should become the 83rd player to make his debut for South Africa’s men’s T20 team against India.

Bavuma has already played 36 Tests and two one-day internationals‚ and earned a reputation as someone who values his wicket more than he does scoring runs.

And thereby hangs an incorrect opinion‚ according to Bavuma.

He admitted to surprise at his selection in the T20 squad‚ but said: “There’s a perception that I’m a red-ball player‚ but I knew at the back of my mind that white-ball cricket is something I wanted to play.

“Fortunately‚ with my good performances in the past season‚ this opportunity has come.

“It’s come earlier than I thought‚ but I’m here now and I’d like to do the most that I can.

“People are quite quick to label you as a certain type of player. That could be a good and a bad thing. Proving people wrong is always an extra motivation.

“You’re always going to have people who fight on your side and people who try to look to bring you down.

“The last thing you want is to take all of that to heart. I focus on what I want to achieve.

Quinton de Kock will captain the T20 side in the three-match series against India.
Quinton de Kock will captain the T20 side in the three-match series against India.
Image: Lee Warren

“Last year I made a conscious effort to improve my white-ball game. I tried to play as many T20s as I could. Those were goals that I set‚ not based on what other people were saying.

“As an international player‚ where pressure is coming from left‚ right and centre‚ you want to be listening to the voice between your ears and not to all the noise out there.”

Bavuma played 19 T20s in 2018-19 — significantly more than he has in any other campaign — in the Africa T20 Cup‚ the Mzansi Super League and the franchise T20 competition.

He scored 491 runs in 17 innings‚ among them a 63-ball 104 batting at No. 3 to help the Lions beat the Warriors in the franchise final.

So it will mean a lot to him if he is part of the XI on Sunday: “I’m 29 but I’m sure that when I make my debut I’m going to feel like I’m 21 again.”

But that won’t mean as much as the feeling that‚ as long as we have people like Temba Bavuma‚ whatever happens in South Africa‚ everything is going to be OK.

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