Andrew Hall goes to bat for Temba Bavuma - and against quotas

Sri Lanka celebrate the wicket of Temba Bavuma of South Africa walks off after being run out by Kasun Rajitha of Sri Lanka during day 1 of the 2nd Castle Lager Test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at St George's Park on February 21, 2019 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Sri Lanka celebrate the wicket of Temba Bavuma of South Africa walks off after being run out by Kasun Rajitha of Sri Lanka during day 1 of the 2nd Castle Lager Test match between South Africa and Sri Lanka at St George's Park on February 21, 2019 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

Temba Bavuma represents many things to many people‚ and to one former South Africa player he is an argument for abolishing quota selection.

“Realistically‚ they should be scrapped‚” Andrew Hall said about what Cricket South Africa calls the “target” of picking five black players‚ two of them black Africans‚ in the national team.

“It’s pointless to have quotas and put players under the pressure of having that tag.”

Which brought Hall to Bavuma.

“Why does he have to carry the big Q around his neck? He’s a superb player.

“Don’t put that pressure on him. Leave him alone and let him play and he’ll come good and score you runs.”

Hall played 21 Tests and 90 white-ball internationals in which he earned a reputation for getting the job done — most famously when he delivered a convincing impression of an opener in Kanpur in November 2004‚ scoring 163 in almost 10 hours at the crease against Zaheer Khan‚ Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.

Not bad for a bloke who‚ in his previous innings‚ made 32 batting at No. 9 against West Indies at Kingsmead.

Maybe that connects Hall‚ who spent as many innings — 11 — batting at Nos. 2‚ 3‚ 6 and 7 as he did at each of Nos. 8 and 9‚ with Bavuma‚ who has also been bounced around the order.

And who also gets the job done reassuringly often.

“He’s showed time and time again in Test cricket that when the pressure’s on he’s bailed South Africa out of trouble‚” Hall said.

“Why put extra pressure on him by making him feel like he’s playing for any other reason than he’s good enough to do it?”

Bavuma is the only black African batter to play Tests for South Africa — a fact his detractors‚ many of them white‚ tend not to mention when they take issue with what they say is his failure to convert promising starts into bigger scores more often.

His critics’ refrain is that he has reached 50 in 13 of his 59 innings but has gone on to a century only once.

They rarely add that Bavuma often comes to the crease when South Africa are in trouble: he has taken guard with the total still in the double figures 24 times‚ or in 40.7% of his innings.

Part of the other end of this complex equation is that Bavuma’s century — an undefeated 102 against England at Newlands in January 2016 — is rightly held up as a great moment for racial progress in a sport that too often‚ in its following at higher levels‚ is still representative of apartheid attitudes.

Bavuma’s achievement upended the unfortunately prevalent racist view that black Africans are at more physical aspects of cricket like bowling and have less of the mental strength required to bat for long periods.

It also drew South Africans who might not have paid much heed to cricket‚ and who happened to be black‚ to the game.

But Bavuma’s innings was less important in a cricket sense. South Africa were 439/4 when he walked to the middle on the fourth day of a match that had already yielded three centuries‚ two of them double hundreds.

The demand on Bavuma to perform‚ then‚ was lighter that day in Cape Town than would have been the case on many other No. 6s in other innings.

But he is often subjected to less than fair scrutiny than most players in his team and others.

Bavuma can do something about scoreboard pressure‚ and he does.

Not so the kind of pressure Hall talks about.

Whatever else happens‚ and whether or not race continues to be a factor in how South Africa select their teams‚ Bavuma will always be black.

And that will always bother some people.

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