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Temba Bavuma
Source: Official Twitter Handle of Temba Bavuma (@tbavuma10)

What is with pint-size players and their zeal to perform par excellence?

Could it be that what appears as constriction seems a strength that only the gifted know how to cultivate?

Perhaps, not having the height advantage on their side, they work even harder to show the aptitude, courage, and resilience to become successful batters, the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Brendon McCullum, to name a few.

When we think of diminutive players, a name that does not immediately strike our mind is Temba Bavuma, the Test vice-captain of the Proteas.

The great Nelson Mandela had mentioned in 1995 when he took over the reins of South Africa as the first democratically elected president, that sports had the power to unite a nation with South Africa winning the rugby world cup. This led the way for the previously disadvantaged race under apartheid to take up sports like cricket and rugby which were essentially the white man’s domain. Well, the inspiration was there for young Temba too, to idolize icons like Makhaya Ntini and make a career in cricket.

Born in a small black township called Langa in Cape Town, Temba was brought up in the intense cricket culture of Langa which also bred fellow cricketers Thami Tsolikele (the Proteas Wicket Keeper) and the Malusi Siboto (the quick from the Lions Franchise.)

Bavuma made his franchise debut for the Lions (the Johannesburg based Franchise) in the 2010/11 season. In the Supersport Series, he made 242 runs in 4 matches at an average of 60.50 in this first season, including a 124 against the Knights, which earned him a man of the match. In his second Supersport season in 2011/12, he made 637 runs at an average of 53.08. This was enough for him to place 11th in the top run-scorers.

In 2012/13, he was the 5th highest scorer in the now renamed Sunfoil Series, but at a poorer average of 31.58. In 2013/14, he again scored heavily making 714 runs at an average of 39.66, seeing him place 6th on the Sunfoil Series scorers list.

How exciting is that cricketing graph where bars and columns only grow and point northward? Temba Bavuma must be proud of his numbers.

For his franchise, he has an unusually high conversion rate of the 50s to 100s, scoring six 100s and five 50s in Supersport & Sunfoil series cricket.

A steady performance on the domestic circuit led to his international call up against the West Indies in the 2014/15 inbound tour where he scored 10 on debut before being dismissed by the Caribbean quick Shanon Gabriel.

His moment of magic came on January 5th, 2016, when he became the first black African to score a 100 and needless to say what a majestic 100 that was. The venue was Cape Town, the opponents were the mighty English who had the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad one of the most feared present-day opening bowling partnerships in the world. Temba scored 102 not-out in that game which eventually resulted in a high scoring draw. South Africa did lose that Test series 2-1, but discovered a gritty, reliable and must I say flamboyant middle-order batter.

His ODI exploits were equally as good with a ton on debut against the Irish in 2016.

Renowned as a Test player, Temba Bavuma hasn’t got a lot of opportunities this far in the limited-overs game.

There’s not a lot one can draw from 6 ODI turnouts, that have yielded 335 runs, including a hundred and fifty each.

Though now with the retirement of greats like Hashim Amla, De Villiers, and Duminy his time to cement a limited over spot might finally see the light of day. Partnering Quinton in the opening position, Temba could be the answer to continue the legacy set by the feared opening partnership of de Kock and Amla in the years gone by. Averaging 55 in limited-overs is no mean feat for the opportunities he has received.

A potential leader for Proteas in Test match cricket, Temba Bavuma in Xhosa (one of South Africa’s indigenous languages) means faith, hope, and trust.

These are precisely the values he would hope to reflect, as also the traits the Proteas selectors and think tank would wish to see in someone who seems a mighty pillar of South African cricket in the times to come.

For now, we wish him a happy 30th.

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