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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

India vs South Africa: ‘Should have added a lot more hundreds,’ Temba Bavuma

The South African Test vice-captain says responsibility will egg him on as he hopes to make his mark in the format.

cricket Updated: Sep 27, 2019 10:30 IST
Devarchit Varma
Devarchit Varma
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
South Africa's Temba Bavuma bats in the nets during a training session
South Africa's Temba Bavuma bats in the nets during a training session(AP)

Temba Bavuma has fought many battles since making his international debut six years go. Changing the early perception that he was just another of South Africa’s ‘quota selections’ was possibly the biggest of those challenges. While it was rather evident that he didn’t deserve that line of criticism right from the onset, Bavuma’s naysayers were silenced when he became the first black South African cricketer to score a Test century.

That hundred (102 not out against England in Cape Town), however, was struck three-and-a-half years ago. And the 29-year-old’s battle to stamp his mark in Test cricket continues into the two-match Test series against India, starting next month in Visakhapatnam.

Bavuma, though, has started off the ongoing tour of India well, first by making his T20I debut and then by contributing meaningfully with the bat to deny the hosts a series win.

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In an interview with Hindustan Times, he speaks about what representing South Africa in the shortest format meant to him and what he makes of his new leadership role in the Test team. Excerpts.

In your sixth year of international cricket, you finally made your T20I debut this month -- against India in Mohali. What was the experience like?

It was a good experience; I really enjoyed myself in the challenge. T20 cricket has always been something that I have wanted to play. To get an opportunity at the highest level, against one of the strongest countries in the world was a good feeling. And to be able to put in meaningful contributions (49 and 27*) and performances towards the team made it even better.

What kind of work or changes have you put in to your batting to get into T20 mode?

(The changes are) more mental. In T20 cricket, the nature of it is that it forces your intensity to be up there. I do not think technically I have changed anything much but is more from a mental point of view -- understanding my strengths and the areas that I can be dominant in.

For someone who is seen as a Test specialist, what was the biggest challenge in remodelling your batting for the T20 format?

I believe that if you are playing at the international level as a batsman, you need to have the skills to flourish in all the different formats. I think, probably, that just the ‘how’ of it will be different. I do not believe we all have to be gung-ho cricketers and hit the ball out of the park. There is always a way to be successful. Or, let me put it this way—there are different ways to skin the cat. I did not have to remodel my game in any way.

Your first and only Test century was scored three years ago. Historic as it may have been, do you feel any pressure in not having been able to replicate that milestone more often?

It is a little bit frustrating. If I look back at my brief Test career, there have been opportunities where I could have added a lot more hundreds in that century column. But things have just happened the way they do. In my mind, my goal is to contribute to the team and obviously, in the end, you will be judged on the meaningful contributions that you make—the hundreds that you make—and that is definitely something that is within my sight. So, it isn’t so much pressure, rather it eggs me on.

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I cannot change what has happened up to this point, but I can only focus on the now. I just hope the future looks after itself.

How much outside noise, praise or criticism, have you had to shut out since your debut?

Quite a lot, to be honest. I have learnt to balance out the two. I am more of a person who tries not to have his head in the media and everything that is being written—be it positive or negative. That keeps me grounded, allows me to make decisions based on how I see things and not how other people see. The tricky part is controlling how it affects your family and people close to you. It is always an ongoing battle and it is not going anywhere I think.

What are your ways to ignore negative comments or criticism?

I do not poke my head too much into the media, but if it so happens that a negative statement or a remark comes my way, I try to look at it as it is. Sometimes there are things that you can learn even from negative criticism, and it is important to not allow your emotions to get caught up in the whole thing. But if there is any validity, I take it on board. If not, I throw it out of the back of my head.

Your leadership qualities will be tested in the Test series against India after having been named South Africa’s vice captain in the format for the first time. Your thoughts?

It is a big responsibility. In saying that, me as a not-so-young player anymore, I can take a lot of confidence from being given this type of title and responsibility among the leaders within our team.

I am going to lean a lot on the senior players to really assist in driving the team forward. My role is to assist the captain, ensuring that his philosophy and his approach to the game are instilled within the team.

What will be this South African Test team’s biggest challenges, or scope for improvement, going into the series against India?

The biggest challenge will be to overcome whatever challenges that come from playing in this part of the world, in subcontinent conditions.

In the past we have seen South African teams coming here and being successful. The belief and confidence is there. But our biggest challenge, with the group that we have now, would be to replicate those performances of the past.

First Published: Sep 27, 2019 08:59 IST

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