Temba Bavuma’s appointment as the first permanent black African captain is a wonderful moment for South African sport, and invokes memories of when Siya Kolisi first became Springbok skipper, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
After what’s seemed like a non-stop period of CSA drama, with the status of South African cricket seemingly staggering from one controversy to another, it was refreshing to have something to celebrate on Thursday.
Without all that much fanfare, Bavuma was confirmed as the new Proteas captain in the shorter formats by Cricket South Africa on Thursday, while Dean Elgar will lead the Test team.
Elgar’s appointment also makes consummate sense, but he does turn 34 in June, and it may not be all that long before a leadership successor is needed in the longer form of the game.
It stands to reason that Bavuma is now first in line to receive that baton of Test captaincy when the time comes, although 26-year-old Aiden Markram is another strong candidate.
But that’s a debate for another day.
For now, we should simply be celebrating Bavuma’s ascension from a player once regarded as primarily suited only to the longer form of the game.
Yet, the diminutive dynamo has quickly proven that he has the temperament, talent and creativity to make a success of himself in the shorter formats.
Yes, Bavuma has only six ODI caps to his name, but his average sits at a whopping 55.83, while he’s amassed nearly 250 runs at a strike rate of 133.15 in eight T20 matches.
The 30-year-old will now lead the country into the upcoming T20 World Cups at the end of the year and in 2022, as well as the 2023 World Cup.
These will be iconic events. As is this appointment!
As the editor of sister publication SA Rugby magazine, Bavuma reminds me a lot of Kolisi (physical stature notwithstanding of course).
Like Kolisi, Bavuma strikes me as a calm, understated, and eminently down-to-earth character who will let actions speak louder than words.
And in a similar vein to Kolisi, I can see Bavuma deferring to other leaders around him to assist and guide him and the team when the need arises.
Captaincy in cricket and rugby are two very different beasts, but I’d imagine there is a very similar level of respect garnered by virtue of these sportsmen’s on-field success and the manner in which they have overcome considerable challenges on the path to highest honours.
From a historical point of view, Bavuma’s appointment is also a powerful one.
I remember being at Kolisi’s very first press conference after he was named the Springboks’ first black African Test captain. The room was absolutely jam-packed.
It appeared that even Kolisi was taken aback by the response to his historic appointment, and suddenly everyone wanted a ‘piece’ of him.
He handled himself like a pro, but he’d readily admit that the leadership and responsibilities it came with (particularly in terms of historical significance) took some getting used to.
Just recently, in an upcoming interview for SA Rugby magazine, this is how he described his approach to leadership: ‘Everyone who knows me will tell you that I’ve never seen myself as a captain,’ he admitted. ‘My approach to leadership is that I’m here to serve. I don’t have an ego.’
Bavuma certainly appears to fit into a similarly humble leadership mould.
Finally, and to conclude the comparisons, I will never forget the day at Ellis Park on 9 June 2018 when Kolisi ran out for the first time as Springbok captain. It’s a moment that ranks at the top of my list for live sporting experiences that will forever be cherished.
The reception and roar of approval from a capacity Ellis Park crowd dripped with emotion and feeling. It resonated with significance. It garnered memories of the late great Nelson Mandela asserting that ‘sport has the power to unite the world in a way that little else does’.
In that moment, the South Africa’s rainbow nation was united behind Kolisi and the Springboks. It was the stuff of sporting fairytales.
And since then, what Kolisi has achieved in terms of leading the Springboks to World Cup glory and becoming one of the most iconic figures in world rugby speaks for itself. His platform and status in the game has opened doors for him to make meaningful change that he would surely have never imagined being possible back on the morning of 9 June 2018.
In a cricketing context, Bavuma now steps into a new role that also holds immense significance, particularly considering there have been numerous signs of a nation once again encountering divisions along racial lines.
He knows it. We know it. But what an opportunity this is to unite South African once again, and Bavuma appears to be a man perfectly equipped with the character to make a success of it.
And, should he need any guidance along the way, a call to Kolisi certainly wouldn’t hurt.