Cricket is a funny old game.
More than any other sport we play here in South Africa, I feel that it reveals character.
I put it down to the nature of the game.
While it’s a team sport, with a span of 11 manne, it feels more individualistic than soccer or rugby.
With those sports being so physically dynamic and obviously team-driven, in that the 11 or 15 players are on the pitch at the same time and trying to score a goal or a try, the collective seems more immediate.
Cricket, by comparison, is more one on one – bowlers bowl overs and batsmen face up to them.
Those duels define and decide the game.
Manne have to keep making individual gains to help the team to victory.
And those contributions are measured on the scoreboard with runs, wickets and catches.
Cricket weighs up just how much you do for the team and there is no hiding behind anything.
Which brings us back to character.
You are not going to score a century in each innings or take a wicket in each over.
Sometimes you go through dips in form, when the fans and people like me call for you to be dropped.
You don’t make many runs or you get smashed to all parts of the ground.
And that it’s because it’s so blatantly obvious that the player is not contributing to the team’s effort to win a game.
You are so singled-out and exposed to the spotlight.
You feel the pressure when you get tossed the ball for the next over or taking up your guard at the start of your innings.
You feel alone.
You may be wondering where I’m going with all this talk about personal contribution and individual tests, but I need to highlight just what that isolation inside of a team setup is like.
And no one feels it more than the captain.
Cricket captains seem to have more responsibilities than their soccer and rugby counterparts.
They have to think on their feet and have less of a channel to the coach.
In soccer, the coach is on the sidelines, barking orders, while in rugby, the coach is sending messages via intercoms.
But in cricket, the skipper is one calling the shots and motivating his players – it’s a tough job on top of the pressure of performing yourself.
And this is where we get Temba Bavuma, the new Proteas limited-overs captain.
He will get his first taste of the pressure next Friday when he leads the team out for their three ODI and four T20I contest with Pakistan.
There is a lot of pressure on his shoulders.
Not only is this team missing many key veterans, but he also takes over at a time when our cricket span is sukkeling big time.
His job is to lead them with calm and passion.
That would be his brief in every game, but to added to that, there is T20 World Cup on the horizon later this year.
And that’s not even pointing out the significance of him becoming SA’s first black captain.
Remember the pressure on Siya Kolisi ahead of the Rugby World Cup?
The poor dude suffered in his first outings as skipper. He had to struggle to grow into his role.
And like Siya, Temba doesn’t have the luxury of failing because of being a bad captain.
No, when he fails, it’s because he was never good enough in the first place and just a political appointment.
So the pressure is on.
Hell, at 1.62cm tall, he’s the shortest guy in the team too.
Which reminds me of the time I was a d**s to Temba.
Back in 2016, celebrating his unbeaten 102 at Newlands with a drink at the Waiting Room, Temba elbowed into me inside the packed club.
Lit from my paar doppe and surprised to see our new hero, I congratulated him with a “Temba Bavuma! Wow what a knock the other day. You made us proud, grootman”.
And then I patted him on his head. Swak!
Here was the first black South African to score a Test hundred and I pat him on the head like he’s a laaitie. Talk about being looked down upon.
Anyway. I’m sorry for that and I wish you the best luck.
At least Bavuma doesn’t have a hard act to follow after taking over from tjankgat Quinton de Kock, who didn’t have it in his broek to do the job.
The SA captaincy has tarnished many a player – De Kock, Hansie Cronje and even Shaun Pollock.
Here’s hoping Bavuma stands the test of time and character.