Temba Bavuma’s form has elicited widespread criticism, but he’s going to the World Cup, and an urgent plan needs to be put in place to transform him from a liability to an asset, writes RYAN VREDE.
I’ve noted the criticism of Bavuma’s performances in the India series, all of it justified. He hasn’t scored enough runs, and the runs he has scored have come at a completely inadequate strike rate.
He averages 22.40 in his past 10 innings, with a highest score of 72 versus Ireland in July 2021, which came at a strike rate of 141. In the other nine innings, Bavuma got three scores over 30, none of them featuring a strike rate higher than 116.
His form demands the Proteas selectors look elsewhere. However, when the national selectors appointed him white-ball captain in 2021, they committed to him in a manner that makes it highly complex to now look at alternatives.
Bavuma is not a bad cricketer. He has shown that in a summer marked by consistency in Test and ODI cricket. He is simply struggling to meet the demands of modern T20 cricket.
I’ve also noted the narrative that seeks to diminish not only his cricket ability, but his very humanity. A struggling black player and a struggling white one, of whom there are a clutch in the Proteas team, are no different. Bavuma deserves the dignity of being assessed by the weight of his contribution.
Presently, that contribution is mediocre. This may change in the upcoming T20I series against England and Ireland. Bavuma may find a method that works for him in T20 cricket.
There is precedent for this. His Test and ODI careers attest to that. In those formats, he has made technical and mental adjustments that have birthed consistency, and did so against some of the game’s finest – India and New Zealand.
This must be his primary focus in the five matches that remain before the T20 World Cup in October. The onus is on him to figure his game out, but he needs assistance in this process. A decisive and astute coaching intervention from Mark Boucher and his support staff is essential.
I’ve written extensively that coaches matter at the game’s highest levels, contrary to a widely held view that players at those levels should only need minor technical, mental and tactical investment.
Indeed, Bavuma’s teammate David Miller has benefitted immensely from work done with former Proteas head coach Gary Kirsten while with the Gujarat Titans in the IPL. Miller is a player transformed. Where he was once just power and potential, he is now power, patience and consistent potency.
If nobody on the coaching staff is adequately equipped for such an intervention with Bavuma, they must seek outside counsel. This must not reflect badly on them. Instead, it must be viewed as a sign of maturity, and an unfailing commitment to a skipper the national selectors are tied to, and can’t discard.
I’m not advocating that this be the approach for all players. International cricket is a tough place and those who can’t meet its demands consistently must be moved on.
This, however, is a more nuanced situation and needs to be approached with maturity and pragmatism.