T20 World Cup

'Surprised' Bavuma reacts to De Kock kneeling controversy: 'He is a man in his own shoes'

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Temba Bavuma (Getty)
Temba Bavuma (Getty)
  • Temba Bavuma says the Proteas were "surprised" to hear of Quinton de Kock's unavailability on Tuesday. 
  • De Kock has been at the centre of controversy after refusing to take a knee in support of the fight against racism, despite instruction from the CSA board.
  • Bavuma said he and his teammates would offer De Kock all the support he needs. 

Proteas skipper Temba Bavuma says he was surprised to hear that Quinton de Kock had made himself unavailable for Tuesday's T20 World Cup clash against the West Indies in Dubai.

READ | Cricket SA confirms De Kock refused to take the knee, contemplates 'next steps'

While the result for the Proteas was exactly what they needed - a comfortable 8-wicket victory - the day was filled with drama and controversy too.

The Cricket South Africa (CSA) board relayed a message to Bavuma and Proteas management on Tuesday morning, instructing all players to take a knee to show a united front in the fight against racism ahead of every remaining match at the World Cup.

Then, at the toss, Bavuma confirmed that De Kock had made himself unavailable for the match due to "personal reasons."

In a second statement, CSA noted that De Kock had opted against taking the knee, and then after the match, Bavuma was made to field a barrage of questions that had everything to do with De Kock and very little to do with what transpired on the field.

As he has done numerous times over the years when pressed on sensitive issues, Bavuma responded with maturity and level-headedness desperately needed in times like these.

"As a team, we were obviously surprised and taken aback by the news," said Bavuma when asked about De Kock making himself unavailable.

"In saying that, Quinton is an adult and a man in his own shoes. We respect his decision, and we respect his conviction.

"I know that he will be standing behind whatever decisions he has taken."

These latest developments have thrown De Kock's World Cup into doubt. Heinrich Klaasen kept wicket on Tuesday, but Bavuma was not sure what the immediate future would bring.

"I don't know how far it's going to develop. It's a decision that was only taken today ... it wouldn't be my decision whether to replace Quinton or get a substitute. That will probably be the coach and the selectors," he said.

"As far as where we stand, Quinton is still one of the players and one of the boys. Whatever support he needs, whatever shoulder he requires from his teammates, we will be there for him.

"If there is a need for further conversations to be had, I'm sure they will be had amongst the guys."

Bavuma then explained how he had been informed about both the board decision and then De Kock's unavailability.

"The instruction from the board came this (Tuesday) morning, and a meeting was convened. That message was passed on to us, and then, before getting on the bus to travel to Dubai, that message was passed on to the players," he said.

"I think the trip was about an hour and a half to two hours. On that trip, I guess that's where Quinton made his decision. I found out as the captain when we got to the changeroom.

"It's definitely not ideal, but those are just the cards that we've been dealt as a team. The good thing is that we were still able to find a way to get onto the field and represent our country as well as we did."

At this stage, Bavuma and the players have not spent time unpacking De Kock's position, but that could happen in the coming days with the Proteas next in action against Sri Lanka on Saturday.

"There wasn't a great deal of time for us to thoroughly discuss this matter. Unfortunately for us as players, it was a matter of digesting what we had been told and finding a way to move forward. We have a couple of days until our next game, and I think those days will be tough for the group," he said.

"I think guys who want to know in terms of his decision will use that time to find it out a bit better."

On Tuesday, for the first time since the BLM movement started, the Proteas presented a completely united front with squad members - players and management - taking the knee together.

And while that certainly did send a very clear message, Bavuma acknowledged that this particular issue was complex.

"I don't think it's just as simple as taking a knee. We have to appreciate that we live in a country like South Africa that has its own past that is diverse in its views, backgrounds and in the way people see things," he said.

"The decisions that we take and the things we support are based on our own convictions. As much as we're a team and we wear the shirt and play for the badge, outside of that, we still live our own lives, and those lives are different.

"Over the last while, I've learnt to appreciate that a lot more in trying to widen your own perspective as an individual, and not expect people to see things the way you do.

"I can't force people to see things the way I do, and neither can they force me to see what they do."

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