Temba Bavuma has not yet watched the highlights of his historic century against England at Newlands at the start of the year, but he has had the time now to mentally process the significance of it all and this week spoke for the first time about the details of how he felt during the innings.
It was fitting that Bavuma revealed his thoughts at the KFC Mini-Cricket National Seminar at Kruger Park because that was the program that introduced him to the game back in the late 1990s.
“All the attention afterwards was quite overwhelming, when I went in to bat it was just another innings for me. But afterwards I began to understand the whole impact and significance of the knock a bit better and that it was actually quite a big thing. But I haven’t even watched the highlights because I just wanted to try and move on as quickly as I could. It’s very easy to get caught up in the whole emotion of it, when you just want to refresh, clear your mind and focus on the next one.
“But I’ve come to realise that I am a role-model for the masses, for the majority in this country. Prior to the milestone at Newlands, it was just another day of cricket for me, even though the batting unit as a whole was under pressure and at times it felt like my whole career was on the line.
“On the first day-and-a-half England smashed us around, then Hashim, AB and Faf all had good partnerships. I tried to be as calm as I could when I came in, just watch the ball, ball-by-ball. As the innings unfolded it got a bit easier and there was a moment early on between me and the England bowlers which spurred me on. I rolled with the energy it gave me and next thing I had 70.
“I began to look at the scoreboard a bit more and I started to get more nervous, my mind was racing and I just tried to slow things down. My celebration after reaching the hundred was just the culmination of all those emotions, relief and joy at seeing my parents’ delight. And for it to happen at Newlands, where I first learnt about cricket, where the seed was planted, was very special …
“KFC Mini-Cricket introduced me to the game at a young age, it was my first form of official, organised cricket, running around on Newlands. It’s about much more than just taking kids off the street, there’s a whole element of social upliftment, of building the nation, the whole program is excellent.
“And it’s not just about coaching the kids, it’s about nurturing them as well. So many of the coaches are mothers, so they instil discipline, they make sure you’re always neat, with your shirts tucked in, and you listen when you’re spoken to. It’s all hugely beneficial,” Bavuma said.
The 26-year-old Highveld Lions star had a more successful visit to India last year than many of his batting colleagues, impressing with his tenacious and adept approach to sharply-spinning pitches, but this summer will challenge him in different ways as South Africa play Tests against the powerful pace bowling attacks of both Australia and New Zealand.
“One of my biggest challenges to overcome has been my stature because I’m not the biggest guy, but I’m always fighting against that stereotype that I’m too short and you have to be a certain size to succeed. I use it as positive energy to motivate me to prove people wrong, to break through that stereotype. But I don’t consider myself as having a permanent place in the Test team now or having solidified my position, I’m always looking for ways to improve, to become a better person and cricketer, so that I can reach higher levels,” Bavuma said with refreshing candour.