If you don’t agree, don’t bother reading any further because you will be offended, writes Mark Keohane on IOL.
To hell with the usual bigots on social media who will find any and every excuse to dismiss Bavuma’s appointment as being a racially inspired one.
These are the same bigots who have and always will continue to defend any white player’s performance or lack thereof as having merit.
I wrote a piece last year highlighting this kind of bigotry when Bavuma was torn apart on social media for not being worthy of a Test place and for being given enough opportunities. It was at the same time when Faf du Plessis was in the biggest slump of his career.
Du Plessis’s Test average had dipped from a mid-50s high to a high 30s.
Du Plessis couldn’t buy a run but the defence was the Proteas couldn’t do without his leadership. He didn’t have to score runs.
Bavuma’s leadership was secondary; he simply had to convince the bigots that he belonged in the Test arena by virtue of runs. One rule for one and one for another.
It has long been the case among so many South African cricket supporters and, sadly, too many involved in cricket in this country.
Pity the poor black player who simply has to score 50 plus or the bowler who has to strike immediately. If not, they are not merit choices.
I despise the term merit because who determines merit? What determines the make-up of merit?
Merit in South African sport was simply another way of saying white.
Bavuma is deserving of the opportunity to captain South Africa. He is a leader of players. He has proven credentials in domestic cricket, has the respect of his peers and is good enough to command a place in the South African top order of six.
Bavuma has been so under-valued in ODI and T20 cricket, despite boasting an average of 55.8 and a strike rate of 92.3 in the six ODI’s he has played since 2016. In his eight T20 appearances, he averages 35.6, with a strike rate of 133.2 These returns are on par with those we tout as among the best in the shortened form of the game.
Bavuma’s Test average of 32.3 is decent and he will demand of himself that it gets closer to 40 than 30.
When the Proteas played their first Test series of the summer, not one of their top order was averaging 40 or plus. Du Plessis was in the high 30s and it took an innings of 199 for him to end his Test career with a batting average of 40.
Bavuma must be allowed to lead, without prejudice and without the disturbing shadows that still too often get cast if a player is black.
I did a scan on articles supposedly celebrating Bavuma. This was the introduction to one of them on a prominent platform: ‘Temba Bavuma isn’t the most eye-catching batsman going around, but despite his limitations, he has grown into a useful Test player for South Africa.’
What an insult to Bavuma’s natural talents and professional cricket career. The piece went onto to highlight failures or perceived failures.
This is the kind of thing black players have had to contend with in South African sport.
Siya Kolisi’s appointment for the Springboks was a breakthrough moment in South African sport. Kolisi, before Rassie Erasmus named him as the country’s first black national rugby captain, was described in a very similar way to Bavuma.
Kolisi was presented as a bits and pieces player, who had promise but never quite kicked on. He was taken to the 2015 Rugby World Cup and carried tackle bags for much of the tournament.
His selection into national squads, let alone the starting XV, invariably had the words ’race, quota’ and the devil of a white word ‘merit’ somewhere in the copy.
It took Erasmus’s belief in Kolisi’s ability as a rugby player and a leader for the rest of the world to fully experience the power of the player and the leader who would captain the Springboks to the World Cup trophy in Tokyo, Japan in 2019.
The only thing Kolisi got to hold as the 2015 World Cup was a tackle bag, but when he was finally given an opportunity because a coach believed in his ability, the thing he got to hold was the gold of a World Cup.
Kolisi’s international career before Erasmus took charge of the Springboks was one that could have been interpreted as inconsistent and not quite good enough. But if you dig deeper, it was one in which national coaches reluctantly picked him, but never backed him.
Kolisi, if Erasmus had never taken charge, may have been consigned to that stereotypical white South African statement, presented as fact, that he was picked because of colour when he wasn’t good enough to make it on ability.
Damn it, if that doesn’t trigger anger, then you live in the wrong country.
Kolisi had to win a World Cup to quieten the noise of the mob, even though they will never be silenced.
Bavuma will probably feel he may also have to win a World Cup, but even if he never does, his appointment is a victory for South African cricket and a victory for his qualities as a player and a leader.
Bavuma’s appointment is the exception to what has been a rule of ruin.