Temba Bavuma sheds light on ‘inclusive leadership group’ as SA seeks to move on after turbulent 12 months

Temba Bavuma sheds light on ‘inclusive leadership group’ as SA seeks to move on after turbulent 12 months

South Africa’s men’s national team ready to step out of controversies and display its culture of ‘inclusiveness’, says white ball captain Temba Bavumaahead of an exceptional 2022-2023 season.

Two and a half years of scrutiny of the team’s environment, which included their response to the Black Lives Matter movement and the conduct of the head coach Mark Boucherresulted in disciplinary action charges against Boucher dropped and the path has been opened for him to take the team to the 2023 World Cup. And Bavuma is excited at the start of what is an exceptional 18 months for South Africa.

“It’s inclusive,” Bavuma told ESPNcricinfo of the team culture, before the team left for India for the T20I series. “When I say inclusive, I’m looking at the management team. You have guys from different backgrounds, who come with their different perspectives and the guys are able to sit down at a table and share their ideas and whatever the decision we make is an all-encompassing one, it’s one that fits everyone, it’s not biased towards a specific group.

This may explain why South Africa did not take a one-size-fits-all approach to anti-racism gestures until the CSA board forced them to collectively take a knee at the T20 World Cup. For the previous five months, the team had the option of kneeling, raising their fists or standing to attention, which the board interpreted as creating “an involuntary perception of disparity or lack of support for the initiative”, but which Bavuma explained. was the result of attempts to understand each other.

“For the team, what stood out to me the most were the conversations we had,” he said. “It was more about putting aside your point of view and being able to have empathy for the other; listening to what the other is saying. You don’t have to be agree with what he’s saying, but it’s just about understanding where he’s coming from and having that empathy.”

While within the squad the players accepted each other’s decisions on gestures, outside of it, especially across the globe where South Africa’s recent racially segregated past is fresh in the minds of many, that was not the case. And Bavuma could also see this view.

“Common sense is common sense. Wrong is wrong. Right is right. But at least you kind of understand what informs a certain guy in his decision-making or his attitude. It was the most important thing.

Taking the knee, Bavuma said, was necessary, although he added that the significance of the gesture had been diluted over time. “It probably got to a point where, with no disrespect to him, it was a bit more a matter of optics than anything. But I think within the team there’s been a lot growth, a lot of respect that guys started to have within each other.”

There has been no directive for the team to kneel this season.

Instead, South Africa is focused on extending its idea of ​​inclusiveness to its demand for excellence and its hope of achieving great things through tours of India, England and Australia.

“We push each other, we push the limits and we try to improve more and more. There is openness in the team. If I think back to the conversations that took place, they were sensitive conversations, and I don’t think any group would have those kinds of conversations and still be in a place where they want to play for each other on the court. It’s an environment where it’s conducive for guys to play well and I’d like to think that the young guys who come in, feel like they can come in and be themselves, but more importantly, perform.”

And that focus on what’s happening on the pitch extends to Boucher as well. “I haven’t been with the wider group, but I’d like to think there would be a relief that we are now in a space where we can focus 100 per cent on cricket. I’m sure the coach will also look forward to being allowed to focus on his main job as a coach and to receive the necessary support he needs as a coach.”

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent in South Africa

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