Temba Bavuma. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Temba Bavuma. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Temba Bavuma’s journey to the Protea team is a passage that needs rigorous unpacking to reveal the elements of its success.

“I think being talent scouted early and given a bursary allowed me time to absorb the cricket ethos at SACS. As a young kid of 11 years old, my technical faults were ironed out before they had permanently developed,” said Bavuma.

The ideal model of cricket being played in all 25,000 schools is out of reach owing to the economic climate and the lack of will by the education and sports departments of SA governments before and after 1994.

The luxury of growing up and attending a local school with a challenging sporting environment for all communities is a pipe dream. Therefore, streamlining the existing pathway processes is critical.

Bavuma’s rise to the Proteas through the professional channel, at first glance, looks seamless.

He was granted a bursary to a top model C school, SACS, and later a scholarship to St David’s Marist Inanda. He played in the SA school team for two years while being incorporated into the Highveld Lions professional cricket academy.

He was picked for the Under-19 SA team, granted a professional contract with the Highveld Lions and while in the Cricket SA national academy he played for the SA Emerging Team in Australia.

He later became a member of the Proteas A team and finally achieved his Protea dream. During this rise to success, he also completed a BCom finance degree.

That story merely reveals the tip of the “success iceberg”.

It is the stuff below the waterline that counts. We need to understand the opportunities taken and how the challenges were overcome. These lessons are critical to replicate.

1. Bavuma stressed: “My bursary to SACS in grade 4 enabled me to adapt and improve my academics, social behaviour, cricket skills and my language. That gave me real confidence.”

2. Being given continued opportunities was a thread throughout our conversation.

3. He had to tiptoe through the dichotomy of being a day pupil at an elite model C school with its structured and rule-based environment, and the unstructured freedom-based township, Langa. He says this experience toughened him and he had to become his own man at a young age.

4. SACS allowed him the opportunity to practise as often as he liked, thereby living out Malcolm Gladwell’s belief in the 10,000 hours of practice to achieve excellence.

5. As a 16-year-old matric pupil, he was advised to undertake a post-matric year at St David’s. “Post-matric gave me the opportunity to further develop my leadership skills and matured me as a cricketer and an individual,” Bavuma reflected.

6. In Langa, Bavuma invariably played with older kids and he was chosen as a 16-year-old to attend the Highveld Lions professional academy in Potchefstroom. There he boarded at the academy in Potchefstroom for a month during his holidays. He stood shoulder to shoulder with established first-class players such as Garnet Kruger, Alviro Peterson and Craig Alexander. He spent the evenings listening to and absorbing their stories. “I had to pit myself against them as a young man in practice and they challenged my technique, approach and character. The learning was astronomical.”

He was passionate about cricket and knew early on that that was to be his destiny. Family, friends, teachers, coaches and mentors all had significant influence, but he alone had to fashion his destiny.

He feels that the numerous challenges and the security provided by his family developed his self-confidence, his inner reflection and self-learning.

“I was humbled with each opportunity and knew that self-sacrifice was essential. My determination to succeed drove me,” he said.

Bavuma does not play the blame game or that of victim, which was illustrated when he was dropped last season from the Protea side. He called it a great learning experience.

The pursuit of excellence, he knows, is a continuum. Cricket SA must ensure that the professional pathway is full of aspirant Protea players from all communities throughout SA.

Early talent identification, especially in underprivileged areas, seems one of the key elements to achieve excellence. A fully integrated Protea team, embraced and followed by every South African, will ensure continued growth and success.

Bavuma has started the Temba Bavuma Foundation, which aims to develop young sporting talent from previously disadvantaged communities. He wants to replicate his early selection process, so that, like him, a youngster can fulfil his cricket and lifelong dreams.

We are so fortunate in SA to have young men like Bavuma as role models.