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Temba Bavuma’s batting: More excellence than colour

Temba Bavuma

When rare opportunity finally arrived for 25 year old Temba Bavuma to bat for the Proteas against England on 6 January 2016 in Durban -after a long wait in the sidelines – he enthusiastically grabbed it with both hands, and, boy, he did not disappoint the least bit.

With the poise of a veteran, Bavuma shattered whatever fancied opponents bowled at him mercilessly to score a century! In an instant, he had announced his arrival on the international scene with a bang.

But Bavuma’s was not an ordinary debut.  In other countries,  the racial composition of national sport teams is not a big fuss (The French Soccer team is dominated by players of West African and North African descent, but this has not caused even a storm in a tea cup amongst its white majority). But in South Africa, where the legacy of apartheid socialised people to be overly conscious of race even in mundane matters, Bavuma’s performance was always going to be under intense scrutiny through various lenses. Sports scribes, politicians and real and arm-chair fans were watching his move. Good heavens, he exceeded expectations!

Soon after making what appeared to be mission impossible possible, Bavuma was brave enough to admit that he was aware that his performance was under intense scrutiny, more as a black African than an ordinary rookie composing himself to beat stage fright.  In an interview with SABC Sport, he said: “”I think when I made my debut for South Africa I came to be a bit more aware and realise the significance behind it all.

“It’s not just me making my debut … it’s being a model and an inspiration to other kids, black African kids in particular, to aspire to. So I think in achieving this kind of milestone it will strengthen that.”

In our obsession with Bavuma’s record as the first black African to score a century, it is easy to overlook his excellent performance. He proves that, ultimately, players of colour will still be judged by the standard of their performance in sport codes that are seen as the preserve of white South Africans.

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