- Bavuma’s combined batting and leadership success at the T20 Challenge perks up his credentials as national captain.
- With his anticipated stepdown from the Test leadership, De Kock may well also slip into the side-lines for white-ball purposes.
- Lions skipper Bavuma currently looks more embedded than ever as a top-order batsman in one-day cricket.
JP Duminy knows good Twenty20 statistics when he sees them.
So when career figures flashed up on the screen while he was commentating on an innings by eventually triumphant Lions captain Temba Bavuma during the recent CSA T20 Challenge in Durban, Duminy was quick to notice the health of Bavuma’s stats (current average 35.57 and strike rate 133 in internationals, 32.39 and almost 127 in all T20 matches).
“Those are genuinely good numbers; he has really found his niche in T20 cricket,” purred Duminy approvingly.
That “niche” now looks increasingly like helping open the door for Bavuma to be confidently installed both as T20 and one-day international skipper, replacing incumbent Quinton de Kock.
Duminy was, of course, no slouch in the T20 statistical area himself: the retired left-handed batsman comfortably still tops the chart as leading runs-scorer for South Africa in T20 internationals.
The former Cape Cobras favourite, now nearly 37, sports 1,934 runs at an average of 38.68 and strike rate of 126 from a generous, 81-cap Proteas career in the arena spanning 2007 to 2019.
His comments on SuperSport came toward the business end of a competition that Bavuma’s charges won, outlasting Kingsmead-based hosts the Dolphins in the low-scoring final.
Bavuma (216 runs at 43) was a model of consistency in the tournament, not getting out in single figures once in seven turns at the crease, and scoring 40 or more on three occasions with a top effort of an unbeaten 53 against the Knights on the difficult, sluggish surfaces.
Along with team-mate Reeza Hendricks, who headed the overall pile for heaviest scorers, the pair were the only ones to exceed 200 runs in the Durban event.
Hoisting the trophy on Sunday brought to a fitting climax, at least for the moment, a prosperous little period for Bavuma which had earlier included tenacious personal showings at the crease (162 runs in the two clashes at 54.00) in the Test series reverse in Pakistan.
Yet it is perhaps in both the one-day international and T20 landscapes where he is currently looking the most accomplished -- a constantly busy and increasingly forceful factor either as an opener or at “first drop”.
He presently shows a rosy 335 runs from six ODIs at 55.83 and is striking at 92, although the major focus for South Africa in the next few months is the lead-up period to the ICC T20 World Cup in India, and then the tournament itself in October.
Add in his electric fielding qualities, and Bavuma is as securely rooted among the SA white-ball furniture as he has probably ever been.
His Lions leadership, too, oozes a calmness and somehow soothingly philosophical approach that must rub off positively on his charges; he does not give the sense that “panic stations” comes into his makeup much, even when games are right in the balance.
It begs an intriguing question: is Bavuma a rising threat (or to put it more diplomatically, an attractive alternative candidate) to De Kock’s under-scrutiny captaincy of the Proteas one-day teams?
Sport24 has it on excellent authority that moves may already be well advanced for Bavuma to assume the reins, and an announcement should not be far away.
Often a good foil for each other at the top of the SA order, the pair were once franchise allies at the Wanderers, before De Kock’s shift up the highway to the Titans.
But with the gifted wicketkeeper-batsman quickly shelving the Test captaincy, it appears, after a brief tenure in which his own form tangibly dipped, critics are quite entitled to debate whether the relatively media-averse, verbally economical – though these are not absolute prerequisites, in fairness -- De Kock warrants retaining the reins for the national white-ball cause.
Illustrious prior South African cricketers, like Eddie Barlow and Graeme Smith, somehow seemed born to lead, while Faf du Plessis, De Kock’s predecessor at the tiller, gradually also cultivated an aura in that capacity.
De Kock, by contrast, has seldom exuded tangible ease and relish for the job and there is a swelling case for saying he should be freed to return to his valued role as dedicated thrill factor … and hopefully also one repairing his recently-dented individual stats.
In the 30-year-old Bavuma’s favour as a strong white-ball captaincy “possible” for his country, is that frontline Test leadership candidates like Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram and Keshav Maharaj are not currently active in the Proteas’ T20 plans, though the last-named player is pushing hard after a stellar T20 Challenge as left-arm spinner and animated Dolphins captain.
Fresh soon – at least that will be the hope -- off a publicly described “mental health break”, De Kock may well be agreeable to putting all his energies back into his own game.
If Bavuma agrees to plug the important gap under that scenario -- as it is understood he would -- it could be a good fit at this “middle” phase of the pocket battleship’s career …
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