Sports Gazette

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The People VS Temba Bavuma

South African sport has had many divisive characters. From the likes of Teko Modise in Bafana Bafana, Willie le Roux for the Springboks, the Proteas have their own, Temba Bavuma.

Bavuma divides opinion. On the onside, a group of loyalists who believe he is cricket’s own Siya Kolisi or rather the second coming of Makahaya Ntini but with the bat. On the off side are those who do not buy the hype, dubbed an inconsistent thirty-two-year-old who has played over 50 test matches and has only managed a solitary test ton with a below par average in the lower 30s.

The Test series in Australia has been lost and the Proteas never put up any sort of resistance, with none of the two matches being played out to a full five days. The batsmen are to blame and have been to blame for a little over two years now.

 When it comes to test number fours, a position believed to be for those that hold the team together, Australia has Steve Smith, New Zealand has Kane Wiliamson, England has Joe Root, Virat Kohli for India, well, the Proteas have Bavuma.

I have always batted in the middle, refusing to be polarised by how toxic the discussion can become. Those for Bavuma follow his church blindly and will take him as the messiah. On the other side of the spectrum, those that call for his axing do so through the lens of labelling him a token player. He is none of these.

Though I do not hold the same views as being on the prosecution or defence, the Proteas recent performances have left me no choice but to put Bavuma’s position in the team on trial.

Having won his first cap in 2014, that proteas team, had Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Ab de Villiers, Bavuma came in to bat at six and only managed 10 runs. It is almost eight years since that day and he has amassed half a century test caps but has not managed to reach greater heights as previously expected.

The argument that he still has time to grow is null. No other test number four has had the luxury of a world beating top four shielding him from the new ball as he has had. The likes of Root and Williamson have had to occasionally open by default when their openers have crumbled, life for Bavuma has been easy.

During day four of the second test against Australia, most us Proteas’ fans knew that South Africa needed a spectacular batting performance to even be an inch close to a draw, let alone a victory. As the elder statesman, Bavuma, came to criss with his team at 57-3, he was being partnered by Khaya Zondo.

We all expected him to play the senior players’ innings. Instead he failed to lead, looking for unnecessary quick singles and playing that sort of cricket that you do when every run matters. But when you are trailing by more than 370, the runs matter little.

The team required someone to bat for time, just maybe channel their inner Ab de Villiers, block everything and wait it out, just maybe a draw would have been on the cards. Well, Bavuma played like that 24-year-old who is batting with the tail and needing to rotate the strike.

The choice of strategy led to the demise of Khaya Zondo and Keshav Maharaj both though run outs he was at the center off. If we have to weigh in the Proteas performances, he is not solely responsible but he definitely has some blood on his hands.

Selling his teammates Maharaj and Zondo for a poultry 65 in a losing cause is not an innings worthy of a world class top order batsman. Neither is ending 2022 as the leading run getter for your nation without a century.

If Temba Bavuma wants to close his own case, he needs to start playing like David Warner did when his back was against the wall, or rather how Kane Williamson took his team to a lead in Pakistan with an unbeaten 200.

The evidence against Temba Bavuma has become overwhelming even for one who was a neutral like myself. He is no innocent soul, his batting average doesn’t fit, his defence not solid enough in the middle. 

His congregates will bring up stats from the last two calendar years too, but that isn’t enough. He isn’t the young and upcoming cricketer who needs confidence building. Instead, he has become those visitors that overstay their welcome, especially considering he has not made that number four position his own.

When, and not if the axe comes, Temba Bavuma must not be spared. Whoever will preside over that selection case, hoping it will not be Victor Mpistang, needs to hand over a long overdue sentence without blinking. Bavuma must be kept away from red ball cricket long enough to allow a new talent to emerge.

Since the Proteas stopped counting their success based on their victories but rather on how many they ‘bring along’, one can only hope that  change comes to South African Cricket.



  • Caleb Kundai Mutombwa

    Qualified rugby referee and sports journalist with a passion for rugby and cricket. I've worked in Iraq, Namibia, Switzerland and Zimbabwe. Now I want to share stories about tomorrow’s stars today. Look out for my podcasts ....