Temba Bavuma has copped a lot of criticism for pushing to play in the Cricket World Cup semi-final despite not being 100 percent fit, but we cannot blame him for exemplifying the attitude that has been demanded of him.
It is difficult to discern any clear, constructive message from social media discourse surrounding the team right now. But the more measured fan has taken this defeat on the chin and accepted that the Proteas went down swinging and lost on the day to a team that might have read the conditions a bit better.
While he didn’t have a great World Cup with the bat, Bavuma’s pre-tournament form was such that there was never any question about the call to only pick seven specialist batsmen.
Bavuma was the first man out in the semi-final, but in some ways that should be a shield against criticism, given that his dismissal should have prompted the Proteas’ top-order to reassess.
The Proteas’ top six has been assembled as a unit and Bavuma understood his role within that – and shouldn’t be chastised for wanting to do his bit.
As for his decision to bat first in the match, that is also understandable given how much chatter there has been about South Africa’s weakness in chasing targets.
Where to from here?
The learning experiences of this tournament will be entirely lost if the management or leadership team is now torn asunder in reaction to a result and tournament that represents progress for the team.
In order to build toward the next Cricket World Cup, there will now need to be a time of transition with Quinton de Kock already confirmed to no longer be available for ODI selection.
There will be some tough calls to make if players don’t voluntarily step away, but the likes of Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller will be 38 years old when the next Cricket World Cup takes place in South Africa in 2027. Bavuma will be 37. Heinrich Klaasen will be 36.
Dewald Brevis and Tristan Stubbs are knocking on the door for selection and Ryan Rickelton and Tony de Zorzi could be the long-term successors to de Kock as left-handers with top-order prowess in white-ball cricket.
If Bavuma is removed from the ODI captaincy, it should only be because he won’t be able to lead them through the next four-year cycle, in which case it would make sense to immediately appoint Aiden Markram as the new captain.
Bavuma’s service deserves more than to be blamed for a loss that was down to the performance of all 11 players.