This time of the year results in a number of things. For one there’s a far more relaxed vibe around the country as the working year ends. Then there’s a chance for reflection on the 365 days that have passed and of course time for cricket.
For Proteas batsman Temba Bavuma the working year is far from over as he prepares to form part of the squad for the mammoth series against England which starts in Durban on Boxing Day.
But the man dubbed “Sachin” by his teammates has been able to reflect on the progress he’s made in the last year considering that it was this time in 2014 that he had received the news of a call-up as part of the squad for last year’s West Indies series.
He’s since been part of the squads that travelled to Bangladesh and more recently India.
“I think mentally I’ve become stronger as a player,” Bavuma, who added his 20th First Class half-century in the game against the Dolphins as part of his preparations for Kingsmead, said this week.
“From understanding my game, the strengths and the areas I can improve on.I think it’s just that awareness. Playing at a higher level you get exposed to a higher intensity of pressure. My game has definitely grown and I’m still looking to improve as much as I can,” the 26-year-old added.
Bavuma was the shining light among the Proteas batsmen given an outing for their franchise sides and while he succumbed in the morning session against the Dolphins at the Wanderers yesterday, the knock will go a long way in building confidence.
“Time out in the middle is definitely something I need just to get going again. I’m just trying to make the most of it and contribute as much to the team as I can,” said Bavuma.
It’s also a chance to get to grips with more familiar conditions after the strips provided on the subcontinent, as captain Hashim Amla alluded to at the launch of the series this week it was like “batting on a jigsaw puzzle”.
“It’s good to be back home, batting on tracks you’re a bit more accustomed to. The ball bouncing a bit more and it’s nice to see it seaming around bit. It’s good to be back contributing for the franchise side as well,” Bavuma said.
Given the make-up of the squad – bearing in mind that AB de Villiers has taken over wicketkeeping duties – for the first two Tests, Bavuma looks set to be given a run in the middle order in an attempt to shore up the batting department.
“I’m just cherishing the opportunity if it comes my way. I’ll try grab it with both hands. I don’t see myself as a regular in the side, I haven’t cemented any kind of place so whatever opportunity comes my way I’ll grab it with both hands.
“For me it’s an opportunity and about cherishing the chance to represent my country.”
He’d even consider slotting in as an opening batsman, an area of concern at the moment, if it was required.
“I’ve always held the perception that if you’re a batter you should be able to fit in anywhere in the top six. From a technical point of view nothing changes,” Bavuma, tasked with opening in the final Test against India earlier this month said.
“Opening and batting six it becomes more of a mindset shift. The opportunity for me to play was to open and I just tried to make the most of it. I’d consider any position. If it’s there to open I’ll do it,” he said.
“Obviously opening is the toughest job as a batter, especially in South Africa. Time will be needed on my side just to get accustomed to the position but it’s definitely something I’d consider.”