Bavuma's 'awkwardness' at being centre of transformation talk

Temba Bavuma (Gallo)
Temba Bavuma (Gallo)

Cape Town - Temba Bavuma, after carving a superb 98 (103) in the first ODI against England at Newlands on Tuesday, acknowledged after the match that being the centre of South African cricket's transformation conversation had impacted on him recently. 

The Proteas won the match by seven wickets to take a 1-0 lead in the series and they did so with seven players of colour and four black Africans in their starting XI. 

Representation in South African sport has been and will continue to be a talking point and the debate sparked again during the recently completed Test series against England when Bavuma was dropped from the squad. 

With Lungi Ngidi out injured, that left Kagiso Rabada as the only black African in the Test XI and under a new leadership of head coach Mark Boucher, director of cricket Graeme Smith and CEO Jacques Faul, Cricket South Africa (CSA) was in the spotlight from a transformation point of view. 

Bavuma, making headlines without doing or saying anything, put his head down and returned to franchise cricket where a career-best 180 for the Lions against the Dolphins saw him recalled for the fourth Test. 

Now, in just his third ODI in four years, Bavuma has made another statement in white ball cricket. 

When asked about how tough the last month or so had been on him, Bavuma acknowledged the challenges that came with being a player so often spoken about because of the colour of his skin. 

"It has been hard, and I think it's not so much the dropping part," he said after Tuesday's match.

"All players get dropped and everyone goes through slumps of not scoring well.

"The awkwardness and uncomfortability from my side is when you're thrown into talks of transformation and all of that.

"At the end of the day, yes, I'm black and that's my skin, but I play cricket because I love it.

"I'd like to think that the reason I'm in the team is because of performances that I've put forward from a franchise side and for the national team.

"The discomfort was there, having to navigate myself around all those types of talks. Players get dropped. I won't be the last guy to get dropped."

No black batsman has ever impacted South African cricket the way that Bavuma has, and because of that he has taken on the mantle of inspiring a generation of young cricketers who, like him, come from impoverished areas. 

It is not something the 29-year-old takes lightly. 

"That element is inspiring, when your fellow black African batsmen want to master the craft of batting ... that's something I try take in my stride," he said.

"The one thing that kind of eats me is that when you do well, transformation is not spoken about but when you do badly, transformation is thrown at the top of the agenda. I've got a serious problem with that.

"You've got to be able to take the good with the bad.

"If transformation is bad when black African players are not doing well, then when they're doing well let's also recognise transformation for what it's done.

"It comes from the media, it comes from fans ... it's just there."

In three ODIs since making his debut against Ireland in 2016, Bavuma has scored 259 runs at an average of 86.33.

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