CSA's poster boy Temba Bavuma doesn't warrantee a place in the T20I side
CSA hurting the South African team by keeping up with an ordinary T20 player who doesn't justify a T20I spot on merit.
Snubbed entirely at the maiden SA20 auction in Cape Town ten days back, Temba Bavuma said he has "feelings of almost being let down" by the six franchises that entered the bidding war for the first edition of Cricket South Africa's (CSA) ambitious project.
"I certainly was expecting to play a role in the tournament," Bavuma said before he left for India. "From my side, there are definitely feelings of disappointment and also feelings of almost being let down in a way."
While the Gauteng batter clarified his sadness isn't borne out of any sense of "entitlement" as South African white-ball skipper, Bavuma indicated he thinks there was more to the lack of bids for him than the franchises' freedom of choice.
"I am cautioning myself to not delve too deep into this whole matter," he added. "As much as I'd like to speak more about it, this is probably not the right time. Our focus right now is on India and the World Cup. We are doing what we need to do there."
Bavuma had his base prize at the auction set for Rand 850,000 but couldn't find a deal even when his name popped up in the accelerated round of players. It made him a rare commodity, in that perhaps the only national skipper from a top full-member nation not to find a bid in his own country's T20 league. Dean Elgar, too, found no takers, but he is a Test specialist, who isn't plying his trade with a regular spot in the white-ball team. Bavuma is.
Neither of the six SA20 sides, backed by IPL's billion-dollar corporate giants, found Bavuma a fit in their roster. There couldn't have been a stronger indictment of Temba Bavuma's perennially vulnerable image as a top-order incumbent in T20Is for South Africa. The player could feel disappointed but does he really command a bid of approval from either of those sides? And for all his angst, does he truly deserve to lead this team into another T20 World Cup?
Short on performances, how does Bavuma justify his captaincy tag?
With the T20 World Cup in focus, Bavuma's dismissal for a duck facing a Deepak Chahar inswinger in Thiruvananthapuram was one of his multiple failures for South Africa. The right-hander has now had 25 innings under his belt in T20Is with a horrible strike-rate of 119.57 and an insipid average of 25.54.
Bavuma has had a match-losing presence as a batter in T20Is for South Africa; neither anchoring the innings with dependable consistency nor showing the streak of an aggressor who could leave his brief but critical imprint on games.
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Only once in 25 innings has Bavuma crossed fifty. Of the remaining 24 innings, there have been nine occasions where the right-hander has made it past thirty. But for only three of these 30+ scores, the 32-year-old has produced a SR above 120. Twist and portray his case in whatever way possible, and that is a failure.
As captain, Bavuma has played 17 times in T20Is for South Africa with a poor SR of 110.60 while averaging 20.86. Among those with a minimum bar of 10 innings, no one - not even a lower-order batter like Kagiso Rabada (119.04) - has recorded a lesser batting strike-rate than the team's skipper.
Bavuma has batted at the top of the order in 23 of his 25 innings and has been a regular starter inside the field-restriction phase. Despite this, he has a career powerplay strike-rate of 101.40 in T20Is, with just three sixes hit from 214 balls, appalling numbers to say the least.
In matches involving Bavuma in the side, South Africa have had a middling record, winning only 14 of his 26 games. The batter's struggles have cut short his team's wings. He takes out an alarming number of balls from the game at a negligible rate of scoring, which puts the rest of the young batting line-up under excess pressure and gives the opposition greater control in the proceedings.
The last year's T20 World Cup in UAE, where South Africa won four of their five league stage games before facing a Super 12 exit, created a wrong perception of Bavuma's influence on the side. The batter collected only 91 runs from his four innings and went at a SR of 108.33, which irrevocably dented South Africa's NRR and made it easier for England and Australia to pip them over.
This is not to discredit any 'leadership effect', but if Bavuma's captaincy is so powerful that it could uplift South Africa's campaign, why couldn't he lift his own game up for the sake of his team's fortunes? If anything, the latter nullified the former's impact. When he made 46 off 46 and 31* off 28 in crucial run-chases versus Sri Lanka and Bangladesh at his end, South Africa failed to pounce on opportunities that robbed them of a good enough NRR, something Australia didn't miss out on.
For all this, Temba Bavuma is set to take South Africa to another T20 World Cup as captain, a decision that South Africa will likely rue given his recent record.
In times when the rainbow nation has reinforced its status as a factory of young cricketing talent, CSA are selling the national team short by having Bavuma, an ordinary T20 player, at the helm and not focusing on the cost that the side continues to bear for his presence with the bat.