Proteas: Is Bavuma being primed to lead?

Temba Bavuma (Gallo)
Temba Bavuma (Gallo)

Cape Town - Temba Bavuma's leadership of the South Africa ‘A’ white-ball side touring India very shortly could have considerably deeper significance now.

The revelation by Cricket South Africa earlier this week that Faf du Plessis will continue to lead the national Test team, but that limited-overs captaincy plans will depend on their vision for the next World Cup in 2023, hints quite strongly at looming change.

Against the backdrop, Bavuma may find himself catapulted quite spectacularly back into favour … both for limited-overs playing purposes, where he has been ignored for some time, but also for leadership.

Amidst the dramatic structural shakeup affecting the Proteas, acting director of cricket Corrie van Zyl was quoted as saying earlier this week: “We need a strategy to (India-hosted CWC) 2023 … so in terms of appointing the captain we will look at how we approach that.”

Du Plessis, recently turned 35, would be roughly another four years older by then, so it is a long shot to imagine that the already 143-cap ODI stalwart will still be playing for the Proteas in 2023.

While an onward push by him to the next ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Australia from October next year remains more realistic - and his continued overall white-ball international form hugely warrants it at this stage - it seems highly feasible that CSA are contemplating fresh blood as captain across the two abbreviated formats of the game.

Whether Du Plessis would be happy to return to a rank-and-file presence in the limited-overs teams is a million-dollar question, of course.

But if the violent shaking of the hierarchical bag, as it affects the national side, does extend to limited-overs captaincy shortly, then Bavuma’s stocks should suddenly look pretty attractive to bookies.

Indeed, any likelihood that the nuggety 29-year-old, who led the Lions to title-success in last season’s CSA T20 Challenge, would snatch the Proteas reins will only soar if both he and his SA ‘A’ charges are highly competitive against their India ‘A’ limited-overs rivals over the next few weeks, preceding the tour by the fuller national team.

Bavuma has not yet represented South Africa in a T20 international, although he came to light in the final of the 2018/19 T20 Challenge, scoring an enterprising 104 off 63 balls from the No 3 spot in the Wanderers showpiece against the Warriors.

He also, more dubiously, only has two prior ODI caps - controversial because those games, both outside of almost the last two years, saw him notch 113 against Ireland and 48 against Bangladesh respectively, as an opener.

Say what you like about the calibre of the opposition: he delivered.

Considering his extra qualities as a sprightly fielder, something the rather lumbering Proteas team at the disastrous 2019 World Cup lacked, Test regular Bavuma certainly deserves renewed white-ball scrutiny.

The likely clean sweep of the selection panel, hitherto led by Linda Zondi, may help to facilitate that.

Still fairly strongly in the running, presumably, if Du Plessis is to be relieved of the limited-overs leadership, would be someone like Aiden Markram, who led the ODI cause two home seasons ago for all but one of six matches against India when Du Plessis was injured after game one in Durban.

But it ended up appearing a premature promotion, certainly at the time, as Markram’s outfit were eventually walloped 5-1 - a glaring nadir on own turf.

He under-achieved personally at the crease, and that trend has bafflingly continued despite his widely acknowledged talent: the successful former SA U19 skipper averages a disappointing 27.95 after 26 ODIs, and has only featured in two T20 internationals, also with low returns.

Would the cares of a Proteas leadership resumption only weigh even more heavily on his bid to turn around his fortunes with the blade?

That would be something for the wise men - their own composition not assured at this point - to mull over quite deeply.

Few other compelling candidates leap out from the recent SA squad at CWC 2019 for future captaincy purposes, although fast-developing batsman Rassie van der Dussen has an encouraging calmness and maturity to his body language and wicketkeeper/batsman Quinton de Kock was Du Plessis’s official deputy at the tournament and has led South Africa in a couple of white-ball internationals on a stopgap basis.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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