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Can Temba turn Proteas World Cup fortunes around?

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Can Temba Bavuma be the good-luck charm that the Proteas clearly need at the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India?

LEADERSHIP QUALITIES: Protea Temba Bavuma. Picture: Shaun Roy, BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – South African cricket fans will never forget the Proteas horror stories of 50-over World Cups in our lifetime.

In 1992, “South Africa To Win: Need 22 runs off 1 ball” read the SCG scoreboard as the crazy rain rules saw 22 off 13 balls turn into 22 off 1 ball against England in the semi-final, and started the rot.

The worst of the continuous World Cup failures is probably between the 1999 edition and 2015. In 1999, the Lance Klusener-Allan Donald run-out ended in a tie in the Edgbaston semi-final against Australia, which knocked South Africa out of the tournament.

In 2015, the Kiwis tormented the Proteas, with former SA Under-19 captain Grant Elliott smashing the winning six off the second-last ball from Dale Steyn in the Eden Park semi-final.

Mind you, the 2003 DuckworthLewis debacle and the 2007 collapse to 27/5 are right up there too.

But last week, Temba Bavuma started a new era in South African cricket as the first black African captain of any senior national team when he was appointed as the ODI and T20I skipper until 2023 – with Dean Elgar as the Test leader, with both replacing Quinton de Kock.

Can Bavuma be the good-luck charm that the Proteas clearly need at the 2023 Cricket World Cup in India?

Well, the one thing going for him from the outset is that there won’t be a ‘chokers’ tag around his team’s neck. The Proteas crashed out at the group stage of the 2019 World Cup in the UK after just three wins from nine matches – including a loss to Bangladesh – and are still in a rebuilding phase at the moment as Covid-19 has curtailed international action for a while.

That new era under Bavuma will start next month in a three-ODI series against Pakistan in South Africa, so the right-hander will be able to put his stamp on the team from the outset.

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Also, he is turning 31 in May, and seems to enjoy the pressure, and has produced some of his best performances for his country when they have been in trouble. And he has transformed his batting in the white-ball arena in recent years, with his strike-rate especially improving in both limited-overs formats.

Perhaps the most important aspect that Bavuma doesn’t have to worry about as a captain is the ‘fear of failure’. No other Proteas side have won the World Cup, and with a side lacking major superstars like AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis, public expectations will be lower than for previous SA teams.

Slipping under the radar might be exactly what the men from Mzansi need at a World Cup.

And, as we very well know, a bit of luck will be needed. Bavuma has led the Lions to a few domestic titles, and surely the bad karma for SA sides at these events cannot continue forever?

Maybe the fact that Cricket South Africa have taken this big step forward in appointing their first black African captain will change the tide. Let’s hope for a bit of ‘Siya Kolisi magic’ from Bavuma and Co in 2023!

@AshfakMohamed