Temba Bavuma, symbol of hope for South Africa

When Temba Bavuma was named captain of the South African cricket team in March 2021, but only in the white ball formats, it was a significant moment in the sport. George Headley, the ‘Black Bradman’, was the first black man to captain the West Indies in January 1948, while Frank Worrell was the first to be given the role permanently in 1960. Yet it took 61 more years for South Africa to break the cricket barrier.

Worrell and Headley were excellent cricketers. Moreover, Worrell was something of a statesman for his impeccable demeanor, poise and elegance, living up to the immense scrutiny of a black man appointed to an important role that until then had been reserved for only whites. Racial barriers in wider society aren’t as strong in the 21st century, but Bavuma also has a huge responsibility on his shoulders as captain of his national team.

He was made captain during tough times. In the aftermath of the global anti-racism movement in 2020, South Africa, despite the abolition of apartheid and steps taken by its government to empower people of color, revealed that its transformation was far from complete. , even in the hearts and minds of his people. Boeta Dippenaar and Pat Symcox have slammed bowler Lungi Ngidi’s comments on the need to take a stand against racism, while former bowler Makhaya Ntini revealed he was treated differently as a player. Former players, including Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher, have been investigated to determine whether they practiced racism during their playing days. Both players were recently cleared of racism charges.

Bavuma understands the importance of his performance. “You understand that what you’re doing, you’re not doing it for yourself, but there’s a whole bunch of people who have come before you who have yet to come who you open doors for,” he said. he declared in a documentary of VICE.

Bavuma’s batting performance dropped slightly as a captain in the T20Is and ODIs. – GETTY IMAGES

In January 2016, he became the first black South African to mark a century test. Yet as inspired as he seems to be, his performances with the bat haven’t quite reached the level of greatness. A member of the national team in all three formats, Bavuma, now 32, is yet to add to this Test century alone and is averaging 34.36 in 51 Tests. His stats are better in other formats, but his batting performance went down slightly as captain (averaging 30 in T20I and ODI combined).

Also, there’s not much to talk about as a captain. His team suffered defeats against Bangladesh (a 2-1 series defeat) and Ireland under his reign. The 3-0 win over India in January this year is a feather in its cap, but there isn’t much else to savor. He was widely praised for his maturity and composure as he handled the controversy at the T20 World Cup over Quinton de Kock’s refusal to take the knee. But in an age where results have become the only currency for determining value, such considerations may not carry as much weight as they once did. South Africa failed to qualify for the semi-finals, once again hesitating in an ICC tournament.

Bavuma’s modest nature and soft voice are certainly remarkable and appreciable. Even at the press conference at the Arun Jaitley here on Wednesday, he conducted himself with dignity and made carefully considered statements.

But his legacy won’t ultimately matter so much by those traits, or his team’s sporadic wins, or even his sporadic batting. Although his team, full of stars who shone in the IPL, will be eager to shock the cocky Indians in the five-game T20 series, that matters little in the overall scheme of things. Bavuma will instead be judged on his ability or inability to inspire his men, or play a captain shot when he needs it most. Above all, he will be judged by whether the team under him achieves greatness, perhaps ending the jinx by winning an ICC tournament for the first time later this year or in 2023, a quest that remains unfinished despite repeated attempts. white captains. And his own efforts with the bat will be crucial to that.

James V. Hayes