Bavuma the ‘elephant in the room’ for Proteas

Humiliating elimination by Netherlands
The South African captain scored just 70 runs in five innings in this T20 World Cup.
ESPNcricinfo
Temba Bavuma’s poor form is “the elephant in the room” for South Africa, according to Tom Moody, after they crashed out of the Super 12 round of the T20 World Cup with a shock defeat to the Netherlands.

“Without a doubt. That’s [Bavuma’s form is] the elephant in the room. There’s better form players for this format sitting on the bench who should be playing on that side,” Moody said on ESPNcricinfo’s T20 Time Out show.

“That will be a discussion, that has to be a discussion in South Africa’s review because you cannot afford to carry key personnel. Particularly at the top of the order. That is the critical point.”

In 33 T20Is, Bavuma has scored 635 runs at an average of 22.67 and strike rate of 116.08. His form had been under scrutiny in the lead up to this World Cup, and in this tournament he scored only 70 runs in five innings as an opener at a strike rate of 112.90. Bavuma scored a run-a-ball 20 in South Africa’s must-win game against the Netherlands.

Moody went on to compare Bavuma’s situation with that of Australia and Aaron Finch.

“They [Australia] had a similar issue. Once you have one wheel that’s not spinning like it should be spinning, it affects the direction you all go as a unit. That’s what was happening with South Africa. The rest were sort of covering up for a clear deficiency up top.”

Former Indian batter Robin Uthappa agreed with Moody’s assessment.

“Knowing Temba as a human being, I know that he’ll be reviewing his own career in T20 cricket very, very seriously after this,” he said. “Because he is a high-quality test batsman. Very accomplished test batter. So he’ll probably have a very hard look at his career and which direction it moves forward. And so will South Africa.”



Bowling stutters

Moody and Uthappa said South Africa’s defeat to the Netherlands was their biggest stumble – and there have been several in the past – in a big tournament.

“South Africa have only themselves to blame. It was all to play for. Even if you look at the last two overs of the first innings, they [Netherlands] were 127/4 before they got up to their eventual score,” Uthappa said.

Netherlands hit 31 off the final two overs to finish on 158.

“Even that was achievable,” he said. “All you had to do was bat sensibly, have wickets at the top in the back 10, irrespective of any situation. You want your main batters batting at the end. There was no proper batter for South Africa in the last four overs, which is why they find themselves short.”

Moody was critical of South Africa’s bowling performance after they had won the toss in Adelaide.

“At the end of the day, the way South Africa went about their business today, they’ve only got themselves to blame. They bowled poorly. They didn’t assess the conditions with the ball. They didn’t take advantage of a surface that was clearly wearing a little bit and just holding a bit. And the discipline obviously at the back end, with the ball.

“And their batsmen got in. A lot of their batsmen got in, they got starts. But who’s going to put their hand up? No one put their hand up after getting those important starts,” he said.

“We’ve seen it before with South Africa, but I think this is probably going to take first place with regards to their stumbles in these events.”



Choking tag

South Africa have often been called 'chokers' for losing key matches from winning positions in big tournaments.

“You can’t blame them for everyone calling them chokers, because they’ve done this to themselves in this situation,” Uthappa said. “When we’ve all believed and all felt that they have come past that situation, come a big stage, they have done the same thing all over again.”

Moody said this defeat was worse than their exit from the 1999 ODI World Cup.

“There’s no other way to explain it [on the 'chokers' tag]. I was involved in the 1999 World Cup against South Africa in that semi-final and even in the game before that, where Steve Waugh made an unbelievable hundred at Headingley. So, that memory of that World Cup is so clear in my head and that was a major stumble from their point of view. I thought that was big. This is winning by a lap.”

Uthappa said South Africa's batters did not play to potential, which would have been enough in this situation.

“This is by far the worst. You just have to play to potential. All their batters have gotten off to starts. But not one of them put their hand up and completed the innings. Even if they played at just run-a-ball, exactly like Ben Stokes did last evening, if they had done that, they would have gone through.”