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News

Bavuma will captain South Africa for as long as team-mates and management want

South Africa's white-ball captain has promised a different, more-assertive style of play in ODIs against England

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
26-Jan-2023
"If the team wants to go in a different direction with a different leader, I am happy to step away"  •  Associated Press

"If the team wants to go in a different direction with a different leader, I am happy to step away"  •  Associated Press

Temba Bavuma will continue as South Africa's white-ball captain for as long as his team-mates and management want him to. Bavuma, who said he would not make a rash decision about his leadership future after South Africa were booted out of the T20 World Cup at the hands of Netherlands in November, has since had "conversations with the relevant people and remains committed to the role."
"At the T20 World Cup, the question [about captaincy] was asked. It was obviously quite an emotional time. It was a bit unfair to be asked that question right after walking off the field after a loss," Bavuma said ahead of South Africa's World Cup Super League series against England. "Conversations were had with the relevant people and I am still in it. I've said to the guys if they would still like me to be the guy to lead, I am happy to do it. I've never ever made it about me, it's always been about the team. I don't think you've ever heard me say that it's about me and I."
However, Bavuma, who is under more pressure in T20Is than in ODIs, indicated that if the new coaching staff wants to move on from him, he will accept that decision. "If the team wants to go in a different direction with a different leader, I am happy to step away," Bavuma said. "Ultimately it's up to the coach. We have got a new coach and a new coaching staff; the coach will have his vision and he will need somebody to drive that vision. At the moment the coach has entrusted me with that role so I will continue doing my best. Fortunately, I have got a bunch of guys that support me. For me, it's business as usual for now."
Last week, South Africa unveiled Shukri Conrad and Rob Walter to the national men's red-ball and white-ball jobs respectively. Walter will only arrive in South Africa in February so Conrad has been entrusted with overseeing the England series and no major changes were made to South Africa's ODI squad. Bavuma has promised a slightly different approach, as South Africa look to be more assertive in their style of play. "It's something that has been spoken about - wanting to be a lot more positive, wanting to be a lot more brave and always looking to take the option that puts either the batter or the bowler under pressure," he said.
But he did not go as far as saying South Africa will look to emulate England's uber-aggressive blueprint, which they have adopted in all formats.
"They are the pioneers - not just white-ball cricket, even in red-ball cricket," Bavuma said. "We are South Africans. We have our way of thinking, our way of doing things. There's nothing wrong with us taking a little bit from England, putting it together and seeing what comes about. With the personnel we have, guys going out and expressing themselves...if that equates to a South African Bazball way of playing - to use a stupid term - then so be it. If it means we are going to go out there and block the shit out of the ball, so be it."
The latter is unlikely to serve South Africa well in what are crucial matches if they hope to automatically qualify for the 2023 ODI World Cup. South Africa are currently 11th on the points table and need to win at least three of their remaining five matches to secure a spot in the top eight. That means they must win at least one of the three matches against England in the next week to stay in the hunt, with two matches to come against Netherlands at the end of the summer.
"With the personnel we have, guys going out and expressing themselves...if that equates to a South African Bazball way of playing - to use a stupid term - then so be it. If it means we are going to go out there and block the shit out of the ball, so be it."
Temba Bavuma on South Africa's approach against England
While Bavuma is aware of the critical state of South Africa's World Cup qualifying campaign, he has not made it the sole focus of the series and instead wants them to concentrate in building a new brand of cricket as they enter another new era. "We know where we stand in terms of how many games we need to win," he said. "We'd like to shift our focus a little bit, looking to the World Cup. It's an opportunity for us to clear up our identity and how we would like to play and we would like to use these games as an opportunity to do that. We know what we need to do and if it means in June we are playing in the qualifiers, that's something we are prepared to do. That's something everyone is prepared to do looking at the decision that was made to make way for the SA20."
South Africa forfeited three ODIs in Australia in January so the national squad could return home for the start of the new T20 franchise tournament. Bavuma was snubbed at the auction and did not get a deal for the inaugural edition which he said left him feeling "let down" at the time. He has gone under the radar as the tournament kicked off and used the time to "take it easy and connect with family," but "tried to watch one or two games at the SA20 and it was quite fun."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent