Bavuma has a mountain to climb to prove his T20 worth

Temba Bavuma in action during last week's Four-Day Series final for the Lions. He will be desperate for big performances in the CSA T20 Challenge that starts on Friday.
Temba Bavuma in action during last week's Four-Day Series final for the Lions. He will be desperate for big performances in the CSA T20 Challenge that starts on Friday.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

Having barely had time to savour the sweet taste of his side’s Four-Day success, DP World (Central Gauteng) Lions head coach Russell Domingo was concerned about the selection headache that awaits him in the Cricket South Africa (CSA) T20 Challenge that starts on Friday. 

Domingo has to resolve a problem even Einstein would have a hard time calculating: putting four into two.

“They all want to open and they all want to go to the (T20) World Cup,” Domingo remarked.

"They" are Temba Bavuma, Ryan Rickelton, Rassie van der Dussen and Reeza Hendricks. All open the batting in the shortest format, and they are all pressing for three spots in the Proteas T20 squad. 

Domingo’s counterpart with the national team, Rob Walter, will have selection headaches of his own because besides the quartet at the Lions, there’s also Quinton de Kock, Jordan Hermann and Matthew Breetzke who will demand consideration for a top order spot in the World Cup squad. 

Rickelton, Van der Dussen and Hendricks have all had the opportunity to show off form lately. Rickelton was the highest run scorer in the SA20, while Van Der Dussen was sixth in that category. 

He then went to the Pakistan Super League, where despite his team — the Lahore Qalanders — winless after seven games, Van der Dussen is the third highest run-scorer and one of just three batters to score a hundred. 

The two batters ahead of him in that tournament are Babar Azam and Hendricks. For the latter, his performances in Pakistan for the Multan Sultans have been timely after he struggled in the SA20. While Van der Dussen has already returned to the country, Hendricks may only be back on Thursday, and his availability to start could depend on recovery from travel.

It would make for a top heavy batting line-up, with Bavuma desperate to prove his T20 credentials after a season in which he has played very little after the World Cup. 

Since South Africa’s exit from that tournament in the semifinal, Bavuma has played only three times — once for the Sunrisers Eastern Cape in the SA20 — and in two Four-Day matches, one of which was last week’s final against Western Province. 

Bavuma, who has been on a rehabilitation programme overseen by CSA’s medical staff, got through a physically and mentally demanding final, and was delighted to have no damage done to either of his hamstrings, one he hurt at the World Cup and the other during the first Test against India. 

Given how well his three teammates have gone when featuring in two high profile T20 competitions recently, Bavuma will know he has to land the proverbial knockout blow over the next six weeks if he wants to be in Walter’s plans for the US and Caribbean World Cup. 

Bavuma, who captained the Proteas at the last T20 World Cup in Australia in 2022, has failed to convince in the 20-over format at international level, and with so many other options available to Walter, it would seem a long shot for the 33-year0old to crack a nod this year, specially as he is no longer the captain of the Proteas T20 side. 

Bavuma is nothing if not determined and revels in proving people wrong. Arguably his best stint in T20s came for the Lions in 2019, when they won the tournament, with Bavuma scoring more than 300 runs at a strike rate of 137, including making a half-century in the semifinal and a century in the final.

The Lions will be stacked for the opening match on Friday against Boland at the Wanderers, with a starting team that, should Hendricks be available, would include six nationally contracted Proteas including Kagiso Rabada. 

The possibility of Rabada sharing the new ball with Kwena Maphaka, who was the player of the series in the recent under-19 World Cup, is a mouthwatering prospect and reason enough to see more bums on seats at the Bullring. 

All the nationally contracted players will be representing their provinces in the tournament, with those heading to the IPL also featuring, before heading to India for cricket’s wealthiest competition that starts on March 22.


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