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Bavuma showing ‘good objective signs of recovery’, says Proteas management

Temba Bavuma plays a shot in the Proteas' ICC Cricket World Cup match against Afghanistan at Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, India, on Friday.
Temba Bavuma plays a shot in the Proteas' ICC Cricket World Cup match against Afghanistan at Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, India, on Friday.
Image: Pankaj Nangia/Gallo Images

While hardly David Beckham’s metatarsal, news that Temba Bavuma’s hamstring strain is showing signs of improvement will come as a fillip to the player and Proteas just days before their World Cup semifinal against Australia. 

Analysis of Bavuma’s hamstring risked becoming the equivalent of the injury suffered by the former England football captain before the 2002 World Cup when illustrations of feet became front page news in the UK. 

Thankfully there won’t be a repeat on websites and social media outlets of Bavuma’s thighs.

The Proteas captain participated in Tuesday’s optional training session at Eden Gardens and got through several sprinting drills, while also having a full stint with the bat in the nets. The Proteas’ medical team described Bavuma as having shown “good objective signs of recovery”.

Bavuma picked up the hamstring strain during Friday’s win against Afghanistan in Ahmedabad.

There had been plenty of speculation about whether Bavuma needed a scan to assess the injury, but it would appear the treatment he has been given by the team’s medical staff is enough. 

As is the case with any player under an injury cloud, his recovery will be closely monitored and his readiness for Thursday will be tied in with how he fares at South Africa’s next training session scheduled for Tuesday night at Eden Gardens. Wednesday afternoon’s session will be another optional one, but it is likely, based on how players have previously been managed through injuries, that Bavuma will also have to do some light work then.

As was the case in Mumbai, when Bavuma was withdrawn from the starting team five minutes before the toss because of gastro illness, he will be given every opportunity to prove his readiness for the semifinal. 

If he isn’t fit, Reeza Hendricks, who has played twice in the tournament and scored 85 against England, will take Bavuma’s place. 

The injury cloud hanging over Bavuma and the confused messaging from the Proteas camp, where clarity about scans and treatment was not properly provided, has created unnecessary drama in the days leading to the semifinal.

The increased volume of speculation about Bavuma also stems from his bad form in the tournament.

The remainder of the top seven batters have all made significant contributions at some stage in the competition, including reserve batter Hendricks. Bavuma is averaging 20.71. Even his highest score of 35, against Australia in Lucknow, took 55 balls, and he grew visibly irritated in that innings with his inability to accelerate his scoring rate. 

While teammates and the coaching staff continue to give him their full support, his moderate returns with the bat will be an area the Australians will use as an additional psychological grenade to lob the Proteas’ way in the next few days.

Already South Africa’s World Cup history has cropped up, though Mitchell Starc, speaking on Monday, didn’t mention 1999 when asked about the prospect of facing the Proteas in the semifinal. 

“Looking back at 2015, I think they were the only ones who could beat us, certainly at that tournament stage, but we did not play them,” he said. 

That competition’s format didn’t allow for a meeting between the two, though South Africa were a game away from facing Australia in the final that year but suffered a dramatic loss to New Zealand in Auckland.

“It’s funny now that we play everyone [all the teams in the group stage]. They had the better of us in Lucknow. Both teams have kept a close eye on each other,” Starc said.

“South Africa certainly have a potent attack and I have no doubt conditions at Eden Gardens will be different from Lucknow.”

Those conditions may be affected by rain forecast for Kolkata on Thursday, raising the possibility of a reduced match or even a washout. In the event of the latter, Friday has been set aside as a reserve day, though the forecast for that day is even worse.

In the event of the semifinal not being played because of rain, South Africa will qualify for the final due to finishing higher on the points table than Australia at the end of the round-robin phase.


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