Temba Bavuma is not among the 12 South Africa players who have assembled in Port Elizabeth to prepare for the third Test against England, but he remains close to the conversation. So close, that assistant coach Enoch Nkwe has indicated that if Bavuma finds form, he could be candidate for the national captaincy in future.
That may seem like a long way away for a player with 39 Tests to his name and only one century, scored more than four years ago, who averaged 19.84 in 2019 and has scored 9 and 17 in his last two domestic first-class innings but Bavuma is no ordinary player. He is South Africa’s only only black African Test batsman and has accepted the pressures of being a flagbearer and leader for millions.
Bavuma has chosen not to engage in the debate at the moment, posting on social media that his silence is “full of answers”. Instead it was Nkwe, himself a black African batsman, who spoke extensively on the expectations and challenges Bavuma faces and the reasons why the South African administration believes he will be back in a big way.
Are you comfortable with where South Africa is in terms of transformation targets and how things are progressing?
“There’s been a different approach, but that will come over time. We’re keeping very close with Temba Bavuma, for example. I strongly believe he’s a good player, and he’s in the process of making sure that — from a mental, emotional and skills point of view — when he gets an opportunity to come back, whether it’s in the next Test match or in a different format, he takes ownership of his position and does 10 times more than what he has done. We’re confident and believe in him. [Mark] Boucher is the same, and the rest of the team. All I’m going to ask is that we are more patient. We’re trying to put a few things in place so that we can shape things in the right direction.”
Do you think the weight expectation on Temba, being the first black African Test batsman in South Africa, has been detrimental to him?
“Knowing Temba, no. There is always going to be pressure in this environment but if you look at it, he has been unlucky. Let’s be honest. There’s been times where he got 95 not out and he was probably one big hit to get over the line and he was unfortunate. There’s been times where he got 70, 80. But also sometimes people tend to forget that the situations he has come in for South Africa have been challenging and he has been able to take the team from that position and put them in a much healthier position. Sometimes he gets out for 60, sometimes he gets out for 50 and if you look at the batting positions over the last couple of years – Nos. 4, 5 and 6 – he has been able to make those massive contributions. They might look small in terms of numbers but his contribution has been very powerful for the team and put them in a winning position. He has had good partnerships with Quinny [Quinton de Kock] and obviously Quinny has been more explosive. If maybe a bit of luck had gone his way, he would have got two or three more hundreds but those things we’ve put behind us.
“I know that having spoken to him recently, he is someone that actually looks forward to getting an opportunity. He is going to do everything in his power to make sure that when the next opportunity comes he is ready for it. He wants to be in this environment and hopefully in the future he performs well enough and he can lead the team because I know having worked with him, he is a strong leader, very smart and he is able to lead a massive group to greater heights.”
Do you see him as a future captain?
“In my mind, yes. I can see that happening. But he does understand that he needs to put in some performances. The future could be in a year’s time, it could be in two years’ time, we don’t know. Having worked with him in the last year-and-a-half, he has got the qualities, there’s no question around that. I wouldn’t be surprised if, after Faf, he takes over. That will be great for South African cricket.”
Was it the right decision to send Temba back to franchise cricket?
“From a coach’s hat and a high-performance point of view, it’s not healthy just to sit around and not play. If you are not playing, you really need to go and find some game time and fortunately, we have some franchise cricket taking place at the moment and we saw that opportunity for him to go there and stay in the game. Some of the challenges we have when we go on tours, is we have a 15-man squad and only 11 can play and the challenge of those individuals to try and get some game time is massive. It’s not only him; it’s a couple of other guys we have released as well.”
Melbourne Renegades chief to report to Melbourne Stars’ chief
A restructure of Cricket Victoria’s (CV) Big Bash League teams for next season will see the Melbourne Renegades’ general manager reporting to the equivalent figure for the Melbourne Stars. This is a consequence of the clubs having to deal with major downsizing at the state association that has cost 60 jobs.
Both the Stars and Renegades have seen enormous upheaval since featuring in the BBL final in 2018 at Docklands in Melbourne. Both clubs had their boards dissolved and chief executives – Clint Cooper and Stuart Coventry respectively – moved on ahead of the previous season.
In their place, Nick Cummins, the former Cricket Tasmania chief executive, was initially assigned to a BBL head of commercial role that oversaw both clubs. Despite Cummins’ best efforts, it was an inherent conflict that is understood to have caused more than a few furrowed brows over the course of a season in which the Stars reached the BBL grand final once again but the Renegades’ men’s and women’s team results dropped off alarmingly.
Now, the clubs have been restructured once again in line with a raft of staffing cuts at CV, this time placing Cummins in charge of the Stars and the state association’s head of commercial, David Lever, in nominal command of the Renegades.
However, Lever will still report to Cummins, who retains overall control of BBL commercial activities. Commercial returns are another area of considerable concern for CV, as the departures of Cooper and Coventry in particular hastened the exits of the Stars’ major sponsor Optus, hot on the heels of the Renegades’ major sponsor Mars.
The Stars remain coached by David Hussey and the Renegades by Michael Klinger, but there has been a significant reshuffle too in the coaching ranks, as the Stars farewelled their women’s team coach Tim Coyle and the Renegades their women’s coach David Hemp, who had also been the head coach of the Victoria women’s team.
Lachlan Stevens has subsequently moved from a role as Victoria’s men’s assistant coach to head coach of both the Renegades women and the Victorian women’s state side, while Trent Woodhill, who has acted in numerous roles at the Stars, will now combine his post as the club’s list manager with coaching the women’s team.
“It’s a great opportunity and one I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to. I’ve been involved with the Stars for many years now and know the environment and the ethos well,” Woodhill said. “We’re backing ourselves to bounce back from some of the results in recent WBBL seasons. The competition is only getting stronger and we need to be stronger too. I’d certainly like to see a maiden finals appearance this season and win the title but there is plenty of work to do first.”
Andrew Lynch remains list manager of the Renegades and CV head of selectors. Lynch and Woodhill also report into the CV general cricket manager Shaun Graf. “Trent is well known to everyone at the Stars and in the Big Bash more broadly. I’m pleased he’s accepted this opportunity to move into a Head Coach position with the WBBL squad,” Graf said.
“Trent brings a deep understanding of the game and has demonstrated an ability to think differently and outside the box in the way we prepare elite teams to deliver on the field. I know Trent will be working hard with the current squad and any future new signings to deliver a highly competitive squad ahead of this season.”
Rachel Priest loses New Zealand central contract
Priest, 34, won back her national contract last year after impressing for Western Storm in the Kia Super League and Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash, having been dropped by former head coach Haidee Tiffin after the 2017 World Cup in England, who cited fitness issues for her omission.
But after a return of 60 runs in four T20 World Cup innings and no half-centuries since her recall, she has not been offered a contract for the 2020-21 season.
Priest’s fellow keeper-batter Bernadine Bezuidenhout has also made way, after being left out of the T20 World Cup squad, with Dodd – who debuted in 2010 and last played international cricket in 2018 – winning her first full deal following a year on a development contract.
Kerr, whose younger sister Amelia has been a New Zealand regular for nearly four years, has also been offered a national contract for the first time on the back of her tournament-record 20 wickets in last season’s Super Smash, which helped Wellington Blaze to the title. She was part of the squad for the T20 World Cup, playing in New Zealand’s opening game against Sri Lanka.
Bob Carter, New Zealand’s head coach, said that Kerr and Dodd’s contracts were “an acknowledgement of hard work and perseverance”.
“I’m happy the majority of our group can remain stable as we look for continual improvement and application from our players,” Carter said. “We have an experienced core of White Ferns and want to ensure our younger, less experienced players have the chance to learn from them over the next 12 months.”
New Zealand contract list, 2020-21: Suzie Bates, Sophie Devine, Natalie Dodd, Lauren Down, Maddy Green, Holly Huddleston, Hayley Jensen, Leigh Kasperek, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Katey Martin, Katie Perkins, Anna Peterson, Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu.
South Africa cricketers could resume training next week after government nod
Subject to government approval, South Africa’s national and franchise cricketers could be back in training from next week, and may be involved in an exhibition event at the end of the month. The country moved to Level 3 of the five-stage lockdown today, which allows non-contact professional sports training and matches to take place, after consultation and approval from the sports ministry.
That means national sporting bodies are required to present the ministry with their return-to-train and return-to-play protocols which should include details around social distancing. Cricket South Africa (CSA) hope to submit their plans this week, with a view to resuming training next week.
In its first stage, the return-to-training plan will see franchise cricketers training at their home grounds, in accordance with set guidelines. That includes a prohibition on the use of saliva on the ball as well as regulations around the use of changing rooms – which will not be allowed – and the number of players and support staff who will train at the same time.
At a later stage, CSA will look into whether it is possible to obtain permits to allow for players to travel across provincial borders for camps and eventually matches. Currently, South Africans cannot move between provinces for any reason other than a funeral or the transportation of children between parents or to schools and even those trips require a permit. Inter-provincial travel will be allowed at Level 2 of the lockdown, but there is no indication of when that will be.
However, CSA still hope to be able to put on some live action at the end of June. An insider told ESPNcricinfo that the plan is to put on “something which we have not seen before,” which rules out a T20 festival or any other kind of franchise competition. CSA intend to reveal more in the next few weeks.
South Africa are not in a rush to return to training or playing as they enter the winter period. Their next assignment is a two-Test and five-match T20 series in West Indies in July-August, which is set to be postponed with West Indies due to be in England until the end of July. CSA and Cricket West Indies remain in talks about when to schedule the series and are considering all options, including playing it in South Africa later in the year.
South Africa are also due to host India for three T20s at the end of August and are looking at creating a bio-secure bubble for the series, which will take place behind closed doors. That series is particularly important for CSA finances, as it will help bolster their bank balance, amid forecasted losses of R645 million (approx. US $36.9 million) over the next four years. With South Africa’s Covid-19 cases expected to peak around July, it is possible the India series will have to take place later in the summer but CSA are confident it can happen before the end of the financial year in February 2021.
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