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India v South Africa 2022

There is no easy answer to South Africa’s Temba Bavuma question

Temba Bavuma's Poor Form Leaves Tricky Question For South Africa Ahead Of World Cup
by Katya Witney 4 minute read

Temba Bavuma’s troubling innings in the second T20I on Sunday further exposed the uncomfortable dilemma posed by his form ahead of the start of South Africa’s World Cup campaign.

A seven-ball duck saw Bavuma play out a maiden in the first over of his side’s innings, leaving two deliveries before chipping Arshdeep Singh’s second ball to Virat Kohli at mid-off. In a chase of 237 following Suryakumar Yadav’s explosive 61 off 22 balls, the lack of intent from Bavuma at the top of the innings was troubling.

Put in the wider context of the match situation and David Miller and Quinton de Kock’s subsequent 174-run partnership, those seven dot balls first up from Bavuma take on more significance. With South Africa falling short by just 16 runs, a more profitable first over may have given South Africa a chance at pulling off what would have been a remarkable win.


The South Africa captain’s T20 credentials have been under scrutiny for some time now. His average of 24.43 is some way below other platform-builders at the top of the order and he has only scored 61 runs across the six T20I innings he has played this year. But, perhaps more at the heart of South Africa’s worries is how he does or doesn’t score his runs, illustrated by his failure to get on the scoreboard in this series, despite facing 11 balls across two matches.

This series is only the second time Bavuma has been able to fulfil his role as captain in a T20I series in 2022. He has been out of the team since sustaining an injury against India earlier in the year which meant he did not play in either of his side’s victories against England or Ireland.

Whilst he was absent, Reeza Hendricks filled his place as opener and scored four consecutive half-centuries, making him the leading run scorer for South Africa in T20Is this year. The right-hander is currently sitting on the sidelines having made way for Bavuma to come back in. South Africa are leaving out one of their most in-form players in favour of their out-of-form skipper.

Another option for South Africa would be to omit their No. 3 Rilee Rossouw for Hendricks. Rossouw has registered back-to-back ducks in the ongoing India series but did score 96 not out against England four games ago and has had an excellent year in T20 cricket overall, striking at over 170 and averaging 36.63 from 38 games – Rossouw, on paper, boasts a much better record for his country than Bavuma in T20Is. Further against Bavuma’s favour is Miller’s ability to lead the side, which he did in England and Ireland this summer. Given the left-hander’s sublime century on Sunday, he would be a captain sure of his place in the XI.

However, what Bavuma brings to the side should not be wholly dependent on his batting statistics. His skills and role as captain should not be overlooked lightly. He has been a unifying figure for the squad over the last two years of relatively rough waters and has also been a symbolic image for South Africa and their ongoing commitment to diversity. For those who say off-field politics shouldn’t affect selections decisions, that is impractical for South African cricket. Bavuma holds an image and a presence which shouldn’t be discounted in what could be a tricky World Cup for the Proteas.

Equally, Bavuma has plenty to add to the side in terms of his athleticism in the field, and whilst his snub from the SA20 auction gives a poor perception of Bavuma, his merits as an opening batter should not be dismissed based on this and his lack of runs in this series alone. He holds an awkward position where his overall stats don’t necessarily justify selection, but when taking into consideration all other factors they don’t necessarily warrant omission either.

Ultimately, the choice for the South Africa selectors is fairly straightforward, do they prioritise leadership or top order runs? They have enough players in their side to rack up big totals, as proved by Sunday. However, whenever his side struggles in the coming T20 World Cup, Bavuma will face the burden of not only a captain’s responsibility but of the batter with questions over his abilities.

He will have one final chance to give himself some breathing room in the final T20I against India on Wednesday.

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