Temba Bavuma, as the first Black African Proteas captain, holds plenty of gravitas in South African cricket. And when he speaks, people sit up, take notice and listen, writes Zaahier Adams.
Cape Town – England currently don’t have a director of cricket, chief selector or a national men’s team coach.
South Africa are marginally better. There’s no ‘DOC’ after Graeme Smith opted not to renew his contract at the end of last month, but they do at least have Victor Mpitsang and Mark Boucher.
At least for now …
The question remains: For how long will Boucher be at the helm of the Proteas men’s side?
Unlike Smith, Boucher’s contract runs until the conclusion after the 2023 World Cup. Theory and results dictate that he will still be in charge until then.
Boucher has certainly overseen a dramatic change of fortunes for the Proteas. The Test side are now unbeaten in four consecutive series, which includes triumphs over West Indies (away), India and Bangladesh (home), in addition to a well-earned draw to New Zealand (away), placing them second on the ICC World Test Championship ladder.
Furthermore, there has been significant progress made in white-ball cricket, with the T20 team beating West Indies and Sri Lanka (both away), before winning four of their five matches at the T20 World Cup in the UAE, which was a net run-rate whisker short of qualifying for the semi-finals.
The only defeat was against eventual champions Australia.
The ODI side have, meanwhile, switched between brilliant and mediocre, with a clean sweep of mighty India interspersed with a draw against Ireland and defeats to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
All things being equal, it has been an impressive 12 months, with pride being restored to the Proteas badge after a few tumultuous years.
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But things are never equal, particularly in the context of South African cricket, and its strained relationship with race.
And Boucher has found himself at its coalface, with a disciplinary hearing pending related to alleged charges dating back to yesteryear, his management of staff and the handling of current-day social matters.
He has admitted “the past few months have been tough”, and “I don’t think anyone in my situation can enjoy things with what’s been put on my plate”.
This is unlikely to garner him any sympathy from his employers Cricket SA, though, who seem hell-bent on removing the former national wicket-keeper from his post.
Boucher is set to defend himself at the hearings, and has indicated that he will seek testimonies from players within the team to plead his case.
It is yet unclear who exactly will be called upon, although Boucher has always spoken glowingly of his two captains, Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma.
The latter, if he indeed does take the stand, could be critical to Boucher’s fate. Bavuma, as the first Black African Proteas captain, holds plenty of gravitas in South African cricket. And when he speaks, people sit up, take notice and listen.
What Bavuma may say could have a far greater impact than any of the runs he scores for the rest of the year.