Proteas star Temba Bavuma on limited-overs aspirations and County disappointment, in the second part of an exclusive interview with SACricketmag.com.
Just like any good professional should be, Temba Bavuma is goal-orientated, and is always looking for the next achievement to tick off his ambitious list.
It’s been a quiet off-season for the middle-order stalwart. Not by choice, though. If he had it his way, he would be playing in coloured clothing for the Proteas or taking a stab at the County Championship in England. Things haven’t quite planned out as he would have hoped in the past couple of months, but the time off has given him the chance to tinker small aspects to his game that will allow him to get closer to his goals.
The interesting thing is that the goals he wants to tick off his list are things most players do before they’ve done what he’s already achieved. JP Duminy took four years to get a Test cap after his ODI debut, Faf du Plessis took two years, even Kagiso Rabada made his T20i debut a year before his five-day bow. Bavuma not only made his debut before playing the other formats, but he has a Test hundred to his name, too.
Hashim Amla was once regarded as a longer-format specialist, and while people might see Bavuma in that mould at the moment, he makes it clear to SACricketmag.com that he doesn’t want to be a one-trick pony.
‘I want to play for SA in all formats. I only play Tests and rightly so, but I would like to expand,’ he says. ‘I think obviously with the team not doing as well that’s where the opportunities lie, so I see a gap there, but once I put the performances in, then hopefully I can fit in. I just need to find ways to keep getting better. I need to keep getting better and keep reaching higher levels.’
Bavuma made himself available for a stint in the County Championship during the off-season, but an offer never came, contrary to the likes of Rabada, Dale Steyn, David Wiese and Chris Morris, who have managed to go almost seamlessly from one country’s domestic tournament to another. It’s a sign that Bavuma still has some work to do before he earns his nomadic stripes, and while it was disappointing for him, he took it in his stride.
‘I put my name forward but nothing came of it. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. From an experience point of view I’ve heard it’s as close to playing Test cricket as possible due to how concentrated the schedule is there, but it just wasn’t the right time and next year there will be another opportunity so hopefully something comes about. It would be nice to get some experience just before touring England next year.’
Between now and August next year he could earn as many as 15 Test caps. He’s unlikely to have much of a break in this period, so he’s done everything he can to stay in shape and prepare accordingly for what is really just the beginning of his international career.
‘We went to the spin camp in India in the middle of May and that was beneficial. The conditions were challenging and to work with local coaches there allowed me to reinforce the knowledge and experience of playing there. It allowed me to sort out a few technical things in general. Now I’ve been doing some pre-season work with the Lions, going through my paces and getting the rustiness out.’
While it might be a bit unfair on Bavuma, no doubt most eyes will be on how he performs going into the New Zealand series in August. The reality is the Proteas’ need for him to perform has never been greater, as a long run of disappointing performances from the side across the formats and especially in the middle order has puts pressure on the batsmen to get their side over the first longer-format hurdle, as they look to repair the damage that has seen them slip to No 6 in the ICC Test rankings.
‘I don’t see the guys being too hard on themselves and AB is a character who will be optomistic and lead from the front. Yes, the performances haven’t been up to scratch and up to the standard that we’re known for, but I know that in time we can get back to the level we need to be.
‘Every player wants to improve and that’s exactly what I want to do. I don’t consider myself as a permanent in the team just yet so I’m always looking for ways to improve. Coming into the new season I want to be a better person and a better cricketer, and I want to keep reaching higher levels.’
Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images