Temba Bavuma. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/CARL FOURIE
Temba Bavuma. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/CARL FOURIE

My conversation with Temba Bavuma sent me scurrying to my bookshelf to reread Bounce by Matthew Syed, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and other books on motivation and success.

Bavuma’s professional journey to the SA national cricket team includes genetics, deep practice, passion, personal reflection, a high work ethic, motivation, and community and family sacrifice. All these factors kept reverberating in my chat with him.

The batsman highlights the three main factors that have assisted him to become a Protea player. These mirror Heynecke Meyer’s analysis of the qualities he looked for when choosing young players for the Bulls.

In 2005 Meyer spoke at the Cricket SA High Performance Academy and started his talk in dramatic fashion. “Talent is irrelevant,” he began. “The three qualities required for success are passion, inner drive and work ethic.”

Talent, it is said, is a continuum — a process of increasing growth. Talent is a pursuit, not a genetic or natural absolute. Only by revealing the submerged bit of the “success iceberg” can we unlock the real reasons for triumph.

Bavuma’s statistics and record are the tip of the iceberg. His story unfolds like an intriguing novel. It helps me appreciate this open, mature, reflective and determined young man.

“My four uncles played for Langa CC. They took me to watch their matches and I grew to love the game,” Bavuma recollects.

One uncle, Tengo Sokanyile, played at the top level with the likes of Shukri Conrad. Bavuma fashioned his technique when his uncles threw balls to him on the side of the field and by watching his hero Sachin Tendulkar on TV.

Hence his correct stance and style. Street cricket in Langa gave him his competitive streak and determination.

“Street cricket involved one batsman against about 10 bowlers with 15 fielders. As the boys were of all ages, I had to stand up and face players much older than me, which fuelled my high level of competitiveness and toughness. It also gave me the confidence that I could deal with anything that life threw at me,” Bavuma says.

It also taught him that he had to find his own solutions and his own path, he says.

The street in which he lived generated cricketers such as Thami Tsolekile and Malusi Siboto. In his book, Bounce, Matthew Syed wrote about the importance of the community in shaping a player’s future. Syed lived in Silverdale Road in Reading, Berkshire, which produced the vast majority of table tennis champions in the UK. It had a ramshackle shed that housed the Omega Table Tennis Club. The club was open 24/7 and all members had keys, so they could practise any time. The ideal breeding ground, it turned out to be.

Bavuma reminisces about his time playing cricket in the township.

“We named the Langa crossroads after the cricket stadiums. The main intersection was Lord’s, the badly paved potholed crossroad was Karachi. We dreamed of playing overseas and we took on the names of our favourite cricketers, invariably West Indians like Brian Lara.

“Cricket gave us hope and a vision of a life fulfilled.”

When I played with the great West Indian cricketers Alvin Kallicharran and Sir Conrad Hunte, they also spoke of their impoverished upbringing. Cricket opened the door to global travel, success and a life of value. It spurred them on to play for the West Indies.

It is no surprise that many top players emerge from underprivileged environments such as Langa, Motherwell or Guyana and Barbados in the West indies.

Bavuma recalls the importance of Langa CC, that gave him the opportunity to practice in nets any time. He mentioned the intense excitement of watching Brian Lara play in Langa.

Bavuma’s early life, he says, gave him passion for cricket, the inner drive to determine his destiny and be someone that mattered and a realisation that a high work ethic was essential to fulfil his dream.

He had to pull himself up by his boot laces. Chatting to him reminds me of the reflection I read recently: successful people feel eternally grateful; unsuccessful people feel eternally entitled.

“I am so grateful to my community and the sacrifices made by my family. Both gave me amazing opportunities,” Bavuma says.

His bursary to attend SACS (Junior School in Cape Town) in Grade 4 was the next opportunity that gave him wings.

• Part two of Bavuma’s journey will appear in Friday’s Business Day