JOHANNESBURG – “I can understand all the criticism and all the flak that is coming my way. Like I’ve always said, as a batter your currency is runs and that’s what you’re judged according to. And when your performances are not at the level that we’re so accustomed to as South African batters, people are going to come hard.” Temba Bavuma, October 12, 2019.
In that same interview given during the second Test against India in Pune, Bavuma said that his best was not good enough for the South African team at that stage.
Three months later he was dropped from the Test team.
The trouble for Bavuma in the last fortnight, is the fact that there’s been too much talking (and tweeting). What there needed to be was more runs – something he thankfully remedied yesterday in Pietermaritzburg.
As he said, as a batsman, there is no other currency except runs. Comparisons of his overall Test record with that of other players, or his record in the last two months, or his record in his last seven innings, or whatever other kind of a statistical creation people came up with to satisfy whatever side of the argument they were on, mean nothing.
Bavuma was dropped. Players have been dropped before in cricket. Jacques Kallis was dropped at one stage in his storied career. Mark Boucher too.
Of course, in South Africa the national selectors can’t simply drop a player – unless his name his Theunis de Bruyn – without causing a raft of conspiracy theorists to make claims about favouritism or whatever else they can think of.
The fact is, given the run of form he had in the last year, Bavuma deserved to be dropped. He would not have liked it – no player does – nor would his fans, but that’s what happens in sport.
Bavuma’s hundred for his franchise, the Imperial Lions, was vital for him. There’s been far too much external noise and as a result the reasons for axing got lost.
He was still part of the Test squad working with batting consultant Kallis at Centurion and then Cape Town and was given the job of going back to the domestic scene to score runs. He’s done so.
Does that mean he automatically deserves to be back in the Proteas’ starting team for that fourth Test at the Wanderers next week? No.
If the players currently playing in Port Elizabeth perform well, they will be entitled to keep their spots for the final Test.
For Bavuma, that would mean he goes back to playing for the Lions, and that he keeps batting, scoring runs and restoring his own confidence.
As he continues to do that, he’ll make it increasingly harder for the national selectors to ignore him. Score runs – it’s his only currency, it is what he is judged on.