Big question for South Africa at World T20: does captain Temba Bavuma deserve a place in the XI?

Temba Bavuma, South Africa’s inspirational first-ever black full-time captain, was a heartbroken man when he came to India to revive his T20 career. Few days ago he was snubbed by all franchises in the new South African T20 league; nobody wanted him.

Visibly hurt, he dropped hints that the deeper reasons would be revealed later and came to India. But it didn’t work out for him. A more decent man to lead world cricket would be hard to find, but he finds himself dragging the team down. There were words of encouragement from Proteas coach Mark Boucher, teammates like Aiden Markram and legends like AB de Villiers who tweeted: “Temba is the right man for the job. His form will come from the right place at the right time, which doesn’t beat the T20 World Championship.”

    Temba Bavuma South African captain Temba Bavuma during the recent tour of India. (PTI)

But beyond the emotions, it’s time to ask the question that South Africa’s new T20 franchises have already answered.

Bavuma’s T20I strike rate is 116.49 and he averages 23.54, with 50 fours and 13 sixes. He’s hit just 64 runs in seven innings in 2022 with an 82.05 batting average. His main rival for a place on the team is Reeza Hendricks, who was not a contender until recently. His T20I overall hit rate is just 125 and he’s averaging 29, but his recent numbers have put him in the reckoning. This year his batting average has risen to 147.22 and particularly against England, South Africa’s last series before India, his batting average has escalated to 161.22. His marginal hit rate is obviously higher than Bavuma’s: 22 sixes and 160 fours from 46 T20Is.

Hot form against Captain Charismatic. Hendricks, known for his cover drives and short-arm pulls, used to get bogged down against spin, but lately he’s managed to find a way to get runs.

Indore : South African bowlers Dwaine Pretorius and Temba Bavuma celebrate their victory in the T20 3rd cricket match against India at Holkar Stadium in Indore, Tuesday October 4, 2022. (PTI Photo/Kunal Patil) (PTI10_04_2022_000282A)

With the emergence of Tristan Stubbs, David Miller regaining his form and Aiden Markram also looking decent, the middle order is packed. Considering South Africa is yet to win a major ICC trophy, going into the World Cup and hoping your captain will get on form is not wise.

Ultimately it would boil down to this: do South Africa appreciate Bavuma’s leadership enough to take a chance on him and hope he does well on bouncier tracks in Australia, or will they match Hendricks’ form?

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