Our newest national hero was hailed as “Bavuuuma” by a jam-packed cricket stadium, an acclamation that seemed to echo around the country.
The 25-year-old Capetonian’s diminutive stature at the crease called to mind the “Little Master”, India’s Sachin Tendulkar, as he captivated the crowds with his stroke-play in a match that threatened to relegate the South Africans to being also-rans.
Part of our summer tradition in Mzansi – apart from going to the beach on December 16, Boxing Day and New Year – is enjoying the traditional Test cricket encounters involving the Proteas.
It hasn’t always been like that.
The South African national cricket team was excluded from international competition until shortly before democracy. Correctly so.
After all, how could white cricketers enjoy the privilege of playing in the world’s great cricket cathedrals when black South Africans were denied all their fundamental human rights, including the right to vote, play sport at national level and visit any beach?
The Proteas have done this country proud over the past 24 years, even if black South Africans have had to suck up the consistent and abject lack of representivity within the national squad, especially of African players.
Given that historically, cricket – like rugby – has been played in black communities across the length and breadth of the Eastern Cape, this province has a particular bone to pick with cricket’s retrogressive administrators.
Individuals like Makhaya Ntini, by their exceptional talent and through sheer dint of hard work, have silenced naysayers – including those among team selectors and coaches – who may have tried to justify the exclusion of black players from the Proteas.
Bavuma’s performance, the first African batsman to score a century for South Africa in the modern era, has signalled once again that cricket does not belong to certain communities alone. Indeed, South Africa, in all its beautiful glory, belongs to all of us, with all our diversity.
At a time when many South Africans have been caught short on their racist attitudes – related to black South Africans enjoying the beaches over the festive season and including other incidents – Bavuma has very elegantly rebuffed the racists among so-called cricket supporters.
Long may he hold his bat high.