From Langa to the Emirates ... Temba Bavuma carries a nation’s hopes and dreams
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Abu Dhabi: Temba Bavuma has carried the nation's weight of expectation on his shoulders ever since he first picked up a cricket bat in the streets of Langa.
All that responsibility has only multiplied now that he is the Proteas captain here at the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
It should not then be surprising that Bavuma is just a little bit anxious ahead of South Africa's - and his first game in a major ICC tournament - opener against Australia here in the scorching mid-day heat of Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
"I must be honest, there is a bit of anxiety amongst the guys, there is a bit of butterflies," Bavuma admitted.
"We understand that our fans, our media are quite unforgiving. I think there's a high demand for excellence at all times. We know that coming into the World Cup."
Saturday’s match is not do-or-die just yet but winning it will go a long way to seeing Bavuma's team progressing to the knockout stages. And it's also against the Aussies and that adds an altogether different edge to the contest.
"It's obviously a big game! We want to start off well. We want to hit the ground running. You want to throw that first punch early on and try to ride with that momentum as much as you can. I think the way the tournament is also set up with only five games in the group stages, you don't really have time to be behind the eight ball," Bavuma said.
"Coming up against Australia, there's no bigger motivation for the guys. Matches or clashes against Australia have always been full of fire, and we don't expect it to be anything different."
Fortunately for Bavuma, he will have his full arsenal to attack Australia with after World No1 T20 bowler Tabraiz Shamsi came through his fitness test on Friday after struggling with a groin injury during the week. And although his hand remains bandaged, Bavuma is also ready for the challenge.
"On my side, the fitness is good. I obviously managed to get through the two games unscathed. The hand held up nicely, so I'm all good to go," he said.
"Shamsi as well, I understand that he's also good to go. He passed his fitness test today. So he's good. I'm good as well."
South Africa have yet to settle on their line-up with the selection panel, which Bavuma is not a part of, still undecided on the team balance in relation to the extra spinner or seam bowling all-rounder.
With it being a day game and Australia's struggles against spin in Bangladesh in their last series, the likelihood of three spinners could be the poison of choice, although Bavuma doesn't want the decision based on the Aussies' recent travails.
"There is learnings that you can take from it, but I think a competitive side, a powerful side like Australia, I don't think would allow those type of performances to deter them going forward," he said.
"We won't be undermining them looking at their past results. We know what type of team that they are, and it will be important for us that we bring our A game."
Likely teams for Sheikh Zayed Stadium:
South Africa: Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma (capt), Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Kagiso Rabada, Bjorn Fortuin, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi.
Australia: Aaron Finch (capt), David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steven Smith Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood.
Start: 12pm (SA time), TV: SuperSport, Radio: Sabc Radio2000.