Black Transformation issues I spotted during South Africa A’s matches
The discussions on black cricketers not featuring in the Proteas Test starting line-up has been hot off people’s tongues since the Thami Tsolekile vs. AB de Villiers saga in the beginning of the year. But in truth, no black batsman but Tsolekile deserves to be in the starting 11 at the moment.
Having mentioned that, the re-inclusion of Thami Tsolekile in the SA Test squad to tour UAE to play two Tests against Pakistan is a huge achievement for the Highveld Lions wicket-keeper batsman. After being ruthlessly criticised by the press of not fitting the criteria of being in the Proteas Test side; Tsolekile has gone back into the domestic front and has consistently scored hundreds and handy half-centuries for the Lions and SA A. If he features in the starting 11, he shall be very instrumental in building big partnerships along the other top-order batsmen.
His 267 run-partnership with Dean Elgar (Tsolekile and Elgar scored 268 and 159 runs respectively in the innings) indicates that his batting abilities might be useful against a demolishing Pakistan bowling attack on Abu Dhabi and Dubai wickets. Tsolekile has an outstanding track record of anchoring big partnerships. He was also instrumental in Lions batsman Stephen Cook’s triple century against the Chevrolet Warriors in 2009 at the Buffalo Park Stadium. Although the match ended in a draw, the pair scored a sixth-wicket partnership of 365 runs with Tsolekile unbeaten on 151 runs.
Highveld Lions’ talent Temba Bavuma is certainly a black batsman we could possibly see wearing the Proteas’ green cap soon. But that won’t become a reality until he starts converting his excellent starts and half-centuries into match-winning centuries. With the current Proteas batting line-up, all seven batsmen are capable of scoring big centuries once they get the type of starts Bavuma consistently obtains when representing both the Lions and South Africa A teams.
Black batsmen who have the opportunity to bat in the top six at their various franchises have to change their mentality and seek to score match-winning hundreds than explosive entertaining half-centuries. This does not only apply to Bavuma, but also to other black batsmen playing franchise cricket such as Unlimited Titans’ wicket-keeper batsman Mangaliso Mosehle and Sunfoil Dolphin’s top-order batsman Khayelihle Zondo. The two (Mosehle and Zondo) seem to favour limited overs cricket because of their aggressive abilities with the bat, but just like Australia’s David Warner and Adam Gilchrist, the pair should be mentally flexible when building up their innings in all three different formats.
The fact that Chevrolet Warriors’ Ayabulela Gqamane is an all-rounder is falling onto deaf ears. The “black cricketers are bowlers” tag has been placed on the young talent despite relentlessly proving his worth as well with his Gunn & Moore bat. Judging by his domestic cricket stats, I’m puzzled why Gqamane was picked for the South Africa A one day side but not the Test squad. After all, he performed outstandingly well in the four-day Sunfoil Series last season than in limited overs cricket. Not only that, but his stats suggest that he’s an expensive bowler in limited overs cricket –thus quite useful with the bat; averaging 31.88 with a strike rate of 113. So if he was initially picked for his batting preferences in the SA A one day side, why was he then batting at number 10? This was the same incident with Tsolekile in his second Test match for the Proteas back in 2004 against India when made to bat at 10 selected as a wicket-keeper batsman. If we are to develop black batsmen in this country, national selectors and coaches have to trust in our black talents to perform with the bat.