Temba Bavuma: A liability for South Africa in T20Is

Temba Bavuma: A liability for South Africa in T20Is

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Temba Bavuma has been in dismal form recently

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(BCCI)

A leader of the national team is supposed to inspire others with his exploits, but Temba Bavuma seems to be an exception to this norm. Bavuma has been consistently erratic in getting out early in the innings while other quality batters have been waiting for their opportunity in the wings.

T20 is a game of match-winners and more the match-winners you have on your side, the more are chances of success. However, South Africa have been playing their game going against the norm as their team have a leader and an opener that hasn't proven himself as a T20I batter so far, and his numbers also paint a grim picture of his T20I tenure. Bavuma has scored 565 runs from 27 T20I innings at 23.54 and a poor strike rate of 116.49 for a top-order batter. The fact that he has registered just a solitary half-century till this point only makes matters worse. 

The South African skipper hasn't lived up to the hype created at the time of his arrival in international cricket. He has neither been able to anchor the innings nor shown the streak of an aggressor, failing to fulfil the demands of the fast-paced format. There are more able batters warming the bench for the Proteas and yet they have to go through the excruciating pain of watching the game from the sidelines even as their skipper tallies a string of failures. Bavuma's contributions in his team's victories also don't particularly portray a rosy picture, with just 329 runs from 14 innings at a slightly better strike rate of 117.92. In his last 10 T20I knocks, Bavuma has managed just one 50-plus score, that too against Ireland. He returned to the rainbow nation's squad in the recent series against India after sustaining an elbow injury but failed to capitalise on any of the chances, managing just three runs in three matches.

The factor which makes Bavuma a default choice in the scheme of things is his leadership role. The team might not discard him on the basis of his lack of competitiveness in the format owing to the fact that he is their captain. They have to also look for other options to steer the sheep and take charge of the team to carve a path to glory. As captain, Bavuma has scored 316 runs at 18.58 and a strike rate of 106.04, lacking the kind of performance a leader needs to display. In the last edition of the T20 World Cup also he racked up only 91 runs from four innings at a strike rate of 108.33 which was not a leader's performance from any angle. Also, Bavuma hasn’t led the team to the title in any major ICC trophies. All of these indicate that Bavuma's captaincy hasn't been so extraordinary such that the team management must overlook his shortcomings with the bat. 

Former South Africa cricketer Alviro Petersen had addressed the same issues, taking to social media after his dismal returns in the India series.

David Miller seems to be the suitable candidate to replace Bavuma for captaincy as he has rich experience in handling the responsibility. Miller has led South Africa to four wins in six T20Is as captain while the veteran batter also has 16 victories from 25 T20s as skipper. The Gujarat Giants' swash-buckling batter donned his captaincy hat in style recently, beating England 2-1 in their own backyard. Quinton de Kock is another player in the team who can lead the pack.

South Africa's quota for coloured players also comes into play in cementing Temba Bavuma's spot in the team. They are supposed to field six non-white players in a game on average throughout the year. Two of them are to be native blacks and that factor also makes Bavuma a strong candidate to be chosen in the playing XI. Preferring talent over quota might make the future path for South Africa quite smooth and they might reap benefits from the approach. 

The recent auction for South Africa's new T20 league SA20 was proof of Bavuma's batting template not matching up to the demands of the format. The skipper of the national team himself went unsold as no one was willing to get the batter despite him leading a team of some of the most talented white-ball cricketers in the world at the moment. Not to forget, South Africa is the country which Bavuma is leading, and there is no bidder for him in their own elite T20 competition.

Bavuma had also expressed his feeling of disappointment after being overlooked in the auction. 

"I certainly was expecting to play a role in the tournament. From my side, there are definitely feelings of disappointment and also feelings of almost being let down in a way," he had said after being snubbed. 

Aaron Finch is another skipper who has been out of form lately but one can’t overlook his past records and the status of being a T20I giant. Finch has managed just 98 runs from five matches at 19.60 with a strike rate of 105.37 in the 2022-23 season as compared to Bavuma’s three runs from three T20Is against India. Also, Finch being out of touch doesn’t hurt Australia as much courtesy of the explosion he provides at the top. Bavuma, on the other hand, restricts the flow of runs with his sluggish knocks and looks to be the only skipper from a major cricketing nation to have sustained in the team for a long period of time regardless of his returns. 

In a video on his YouTube channel, Aakash Chopra had stated that Bavuma is the weak link in the South African lineup.

‘Temba Bavuma is South Africa’s weakness as a captain and batsman. I would like to apologize to him because I should not say this about an international player, it is not right. But unfortunately, I have to say that he doesn’t make it to the South Africa team. Although he will definitely be there every time in the playing 11 as he is the captain of the team. Even if one of Riley Rossouw, Reeza Hendricks or Tristan Stubbs has to sit out,” he explained. 

So. South Africa should look upon their depth on the bench to replace Bavuma. They have Reeza Hendricks waiting in the wings. He has been impressive in T20Is with 1,372 runs from 48 matches at 29.82 and a strike rate of 125.41. Also, he will form a left-right hand combination along with De Kock and the duo can pose a threat to bowling attacks. Even Janneman Malan has a more aggressive style than Bavuma and already forms a formidable opening pair with De Kock in the ODI set-up. So, Reeza Hendricks and Janneman Malan are the two options South Africa can consider for replacing their skipper. 

The team has carried the tag of chokers over the years in ICC tournaments after bottling up in crunch situations more often than not. Sometimes, luck has spoiled their chances of a victory while on other occasions they have failed to put up a collective performance to outplay opponents. With Bavuma’s lack of attacking intent at the top, the team might once again end up miles away from the upcoming T20 World Cup as the format requires batters who keep the scoreboard ticking. Excluding him from the playing XI looks to be the best solution at the moment for South Africa to achieve glory in the shortest format. 

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