“I felt like a kid with no burden out there.”
Temba Bavuma certainly backed up those words with a serene, match-winning 98 in the Proteas’ seven-wicket victory over England at Newlands on Tuesday.
The diminutive right-hander was an outstanding foil for skipper Quinton de Kock, with whom he shared a record 173-run second wicket partnership.
Yet even though Bavuma looked at ease, he admitted the past month has been difficult for him after an injury and then being dropped for the Test series led to an explosion of debate over race and transformation in local cricket.
“Yes, I am black, that’s my skin. But I play cricket because I love it. I’d like to think the reason I am in the team is because of performances I have put forward in my franchise side, and also for the national team, whenever I have been able to,” he said.
“It has been hard. It’s not so much the dropping part, all players get dropped, everyone goes through slumps of not scoring well. The awkwardness and uncomfortability from my side is when you are thrown into talks of transformation.”
Indeed, Bavuma feels that the debate over transformation in South African cricket remains skewed.
“The one thing that irks me is when you are seen through the eyes of transformation,” he said.
“When you do well, transformation is not spoken about but when you do badly, transformation is thrown at the top of the agenda. I have a serious problem with that. We’ve got to be able to take the good with the bad. If transformation is bad when black African players are not doing well, then when we are doing well, let’s also recognise transformation for what it’s done.”
While he played himself back into the South African side by making a career-best 180 for the Highveld Lions a few weeks back, Bavuma also credited the influence of national batting consultant Jacques Kallis.
“Jacques has been hands-on with most of the batters. He has been very open to sharing his knowledge and his expertise in batting. It’s been a breath of fresh air working with him. Technically, there’s no-one who knows better than him. It’s been wonderful working with him.”