Cape Town – He has previously been quoted as saying he is
“not an opening batsman”.
Temba Bavuma was simply being truthful, too: you only
warrant that mantle if it is your most common position in a batting line-up,
and the record books emphatically indicate that not to be the case for the Proteas’
middle-order custodian in Test matches.
But it also doesn’t mean he is averse to the idea of doing
the job if asked to do so.
The pocket battleship confirmed as much to Sport24 at the
season launch of the Cape Cobras, his new domestic franchise, at Newlands on
Pundits have almost inevitably, given the technical and
mental strengths Bavuma showed at times during South Africa’s 3-1 series defeat
in England recently, suggested that he could potentially fill the unsettled
berth as Dean Elgar’s opening partner.
It might become an even more realistic option, once AB de
Villiers returns to five-day combat later in the 2017/18 summer, and in matches
where the Proteas elect to take in a “six batsmen” formula, which could mean a
tough sacrifice or two is required on the specialist willow-wielding front.
“I’ve said from the beginning that I am prepared to bat
anywhere,” Bavuma said.
“I got an opportunity to open the batting in India (Delhi,
2015), remember, and didn’t turn that down. I pride myself in being a versatile
batter; I believe I have the necessary skills to occupy any position.
“With AB coming back soon, things may be a bit different (in
the order). Whatever role I get given, and he gets given, we all embrace it and
find a way to contribute to a winning cause in the team.”
When I put it to him that he is sometimes deemed to “look
like an opener” in Tests, despite his berths usually lower down, he
replied: “Yeah, I have heard that too. I
pride myself also in playing the situation as well as I can.
“So if the need is to play a bit more tightly, I can do
that; generally that’s how openers are seen.”
Despite his resilience in England, where he made three
scores of between 46 and 59 over the course of the four Tests, Bavuma is
clearly well aware of the need to compile more centuries – he has one, from 24
Tests – and take his average well northward of the 31.60 that frustratingly
doesn’t reflect his ability and composure.
What exactly has been stopping him, to this point, from
notching up really weighty scores?
“It’s not a patience issue; I don’t feel it’s to do with
patience … what exactly it is, I am also trying to put my finger on it, to be
“Maybe it is linked to finding that right balance between
(watchfulness) and attacking a bit more. I want to be able to put a bit more
pressure on bowlers, but also be a bit more cautious when it is necessary.”
Still, he says it has boosted him psychologically that he
earned plenty of laurels from respected critics for the fight he showed in the
Basil D’Oliveira Trophy series for the visitors.
“Definitely, it was nice to come out of a difficult series
with my head held up quite high. It was good to be able to fight through some
tough periods, getting in, but I also (realise) on reflection of the tour that
it could have made a difference to our results if I have made better use of
opportunities (in weight of runs).
“But in saying that, I am more confident and positive about
my game. I must just aim to kick on from that.”
Two looming Tests against Bangladesh on pitches at
Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein that traditionally offer prosperity for batsmen
won’t necessarily feature those hallmarks this time, Bavuma suggested.
“(They) are due here at the end of the month, but I’m not
too sure there’ll be flat wickets. You may see some greener surfaces to help
(the SA attack).
“Looking around the world, teams do seem to be more actively
wishing to make use of their home conditions as best they can, to their
“We saw what it was like when we went to England; with the
Bangladeshis coming we are going to try to use every advantage we, ourselves,
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