Bavuma hat-trick

India and the West Indies have floundered at the T20 World Cup because they allowed seniority, sentiment and reputation to cloud their judgement in the selection of both squads and starting XIs before the tournament. South Africa made some hard, dispassionate calls before the squad was announced but there may be more required before its conclusion.

Flattering as comparisons may be with Virat Kohli the batsman, South Africa’s captain, Temba Bavuma, finds himself in a remarkably similar situation. Both are best-suited to opening the batting and taking advantage of the power-play fielding restriction. Both lack the punch to score at eight or nine runs per over in the middle overs. But both are ideally suited to repair early damage.

Kohli showed his willingness to ‘float’ in the batting order when he did not appear at his listed position of number three against Afghanistan preferring to send in the big-hitters, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya, to capitalise on a century opening partnership. Should things start well for South in the final match against England, Bavuma may need to show similarly magnanimous flexibility.

The Proteas could not have foreseen the enormity of Australia’s victory against Bangladesh which saw them overtaken in second place behind England on net run-rate, but they certainly could have been more ambitious in chasing their own modest target of 84 against the same opposition. Should South Africa exit the tournament because of an inferior net run-rate, it would be easy to point to Rassie van der Dussen’s 22* from 27 balls and Bavuma’s 31* from 28 balls, but that would be unfair if they were simply following instructions.

South Africa’s management decision was to score the 85 runs they needed “inside 15 overs”, which is what was achieved – in 13.3 overs. That is a scoring rate of less than six runs per over. If anyone is guilty of a lack of ambition, it would appear to be the coaches. Bavuma and his team will, at least, have the advantage of knowing exactly the margin by which they need to beat England on Saturday evening if Australia beat the bedraggled West Indies in the afternoon match.

As if beating England at the moment isn’t hard enough. The Proteas may have to do so by 20-30 runs or with three or four overs to spare.

t took a few days after my last column for the doubters to express their disappointment at my view that taking a knee was the right thing for the Proteas to do at the World Cup. Thanks to the many of you who contacted me with your agreement/approval but I would like to respond to those who took the trouble to offer a contrary point of view.

Imagine joining a charitable organisation to help feed the homeless and take care of street-children only to leave it when you discovered that there were other members of the organisation with whom you disagreed on matters of policy or politics. Are the homeless and hungry no longer important?

In a South African context the BLM ‘movement’ is irrelevant. All of the ‘doubters’ told me that it was, or had become, a cynical and dangerous organisation infiltrated by Marxists. I was not supplied with evidence of this, but that doesn’t matter. I accept that global organisations involving millions of people are bound to be infiltrated by undesirables. The Catholic Church. The Muslim faith. Oxfam’s reputation went up in smoke when it was revealed that some of its staff were taking sexual advantage of the very people it was there to protect.

I understand the (white) concern that taking a knee can be conceived as support for a flawed and potentially divisive, even dangerous organisation. I did study history so I recall something about Karl Marx. Not somebody I’d hitch my trailer to.

But this is going way too deep. Or, of greater concern, too shallow.

Rassie van der Dussen issued a statement early in the story outlining his reasons for taking a knee. He emphasised the South African context of his gesture. He is not American and did not wish to be contextualised in that country’s BLM movement. The knee gesture is a symbol of recognition that racial prejudice has existed for centuries, exists today and will for many more decades to come.

The concern is that ‘Marxist infiltration’ might be a convenient excuse for some people to deny the ongoing reality of racial prejudice. How much can South Africans, of any creed, be affected by Marxists if they publicly acknowledge the inequality of life between races which has existed for so long?

When Quinton de Kock bounced on his toes with his hands on his hips before the first T20 World Cup game, with his captain beside him, kneeling, and the rest of the team displaying a variety of gestures, it was more than uncomfortable. Of course, it was his constitutional right to do so.

The players are individuals and are entitled to their personal choices and freedoms. But they are also representing South Africa and by extension their countrymen and women, the majority of whom, in my opinion, would have preferred a display of unity.

The Cricket South Africa board’s decision to instruct the team to take a knee was painfully late and awkward. One can only assume that they had no idea how bad a mishmash of gestures – and one non-gesture - would look like on a world stage. But just as national players are required to maintain minimum fitness levels on the field, they are also required to behave appropriately off the field - and it is the board’s prerogative to decide what that entails.

Many members of the board, including the chairman, are new and learning what the job entails. They were not just reactive, but terribly late to react. In future they must look ahead with clearer vision and be proactive to avoid further embarrassment.  

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