Under-fire captain Temba Bavuma is running out of time to find his batting form before leading South Africa’s challenge for a maiden T20 World Cup title in Australia.
Bavuma is so out of nick that he was overlooked in the auction for South Africa’s new T20 franchise competition and followed that by scoring only three runs in three innings in the recent T20 series in India.
South Africa play warm-up games against New Zealand and Bangladesh in Brisbane on October 17 and 19, before a potential opening World Cup match against the West Indies on October 24, providing the Caribbean team top their preliminary group as expected.
South Africa have a poor record in global tournaments, never winning a World Cup or reaching a final in either 50-over or Twenty20 formats.
They failed to make the T20 World Cup semi-finals a year ago on net run-rate.
They will need their captain Bavuma to start scoring runs if they are to better their previous best of reaching the T20 World Cup semi-finals in 2009 and 2014.
The diminutive Bavuma was appointed South Africa’s white-ball captain in 2021.
Although not a power-hitter, he has a solid record in the 50-over game, where he has time to build an innings.
But it has been a different story in the shortest format.
Bavuma has made only 64 runs in seven innings in 2022 and has a sedate strike rate of 82.05 runs per 100 balls.
Bavuma missed South Africa’s tour of England in July and August because of injury and in his absence Reeza Hendricks equalled a T20 international record by scoring four successive half-centuries.
Although part of the T20 squad in India, Hendricks did not play, prompting a torrent of abuse for Bavuma on South African social media.
Coach Mark Boucher, who will step down after the World Cup, gave his captain a vote of confidence.
“Temba Bavuma is our leader and I back him 100 percent,” said Boucher before the team departed for India and Australia.
He also has the support of AB de Villiers, South Africa’s greatest T20 player.
“I do believe Temba is the right man for the job,” De Villiers wrote on Twitter.
“I believe his form will come at the right time, at the right place, which there’s no better than the T20 World Cup.”
Former fast bowler Makhaya Ntini said Bavuma needed to lead from the front by scoring runs.
“If you are not scoring runs, it becomes hard for you,” Ntini told Cricinfo.
Small grounds in India favoured the big hitters and Bavuma’s lack of power may be better suited to the larger playing surfaces in Australia where he can work runs into gaps around the field.
If Bavuma can deliver then South Africa have a batting line-up capable of dominating bowlers, with Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw, Aiden Markram, David Miller and new discovery Tristan Stubbs all able to score rapidly.
The bigger grounds of Australia will suit left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, who has been a key bowler for South Africa but was dropped for the last two matches in India, where the short boundaries enabled mis-hits to fly for six.
Shamsi and orthodox left-armer Keshav Maharaj have provided an effective contrast to South Africa’s battery of fast bowlers, led by Kagiso Rabada.