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‘There’s no issue there’ – Mark Boucher shrugs off concerns around Temba Bavuma’s strike rate

“Temba struggled during the tour. There’s no doubt,” Mark Boucher, South Africa’s coach said. But he only really struggled against one bowler and that was [Bhuvneshwar] Kumar. Most of the guys struggled against him. Let’s give him credit where it’ due. Kumar is a fantastic bowler in those conditions.”
Bhuvneshwar, who opened the bowling and moved the ball both ways, was the second-highest wicket-taker in the series with six strikes from five matches at 14.16. He also had the lowest economy rate among bowlers who had played all five games in this series – 6.07 runs per over – keeping South Africa to three of their five-lowest powerplay scores against India.

“There were times when the ball was swinging a lot which makes him very, very dangerous. Also the ball was up and down a lot, especially with the new ball,” Boucher said. We look at it as coaches and say how do we have a look at that particular bowler and how do we give him [Bavuma] more options? It’s quite difficult for him to change up during a series where you basically travel-play, travel-play. To come into a series, T20, as an opening batter, you’ve got to go from the get-go, that was always going to be quite tough for him, especially against Kumar. With other bowlers his strike rates are fine. There’s no issue there.”

Bavuma scored 61 runs in four innings at a strike rate of 103.38. Of South Africa’s specialist batters, only Quinton de Kock scored fewer runs and Bavuma’s strike rate was the lowest. He scored just 13 runs off 25 balls he faced from Kumar in the series, with one dismissal, at a strike rate of 52.00 and 48 runs off 34 balls he faced from the rest of India’s attack, at a strike rate of 141.18, proving Boucher’s point. The challenge facing Bavuma now is how he can ensure he is still able to score off bowlers like Bhuvneshwar and Boucher has a plan, which is not just for Bavuma.

“We’ve had conversations about the first 10 balls that you face. What’s your goal? Is it [to score] 10 off 10 or 14 off 10?” Boucher said. “It’s one boundary extra that you’re looking at and 14 off 10 is going at 140. The margins are not as big as what people actually think. It’s maybe just another scoring option. We did it last year with regards to scoring all around the wickets. You would have seen reverse-sweeps come in, guys who have never lapped before, they’ve got the lap option. If you give batters one or two more options to try and take the strike rate a little bit higher than what they’ve got at the moment, it’s challenging players and it’s pushing them to become the best in the world. If you look at it in its entirety you might think it’s near impossible for a guy to get to a strike rate 140 if he is at 120 but it could just be merely just adding another shot to his whole repertoire that could change that.”

But to do that, Boucher would like to see a slight shift in mindset among his batters. “You need to have the technical know-how on how to play a shot,” he said. “Once you get the confidence of adding that extra shot to your batting, or ball to your bowling, it’s having the mindset to go out there and really trust it.”

And once the players have the belief that they can bat big and bat quickly, Boucher believes the South African line-up can become as explosive as teams like India or England. “Ultimately, you’re not going to win World Cups with a mindset where you are tentative,” he said. “You’ve got to go out there and play. There’s been other teams in the world – India have showed us the way they play, England and the way they play- that’s really the way forward, especially in the shorter version of the game.”

The next question is whether Bavuma is going to be on track for the World Cup after suffering an elbow injury during the India series, when he fell while completing a single in the fourth match on Friday. He will undergo scans on Tuesday after sitting out Sunday’s decider. “We were really worried after the actual injury because he couldn’t bend his arm at all,” Boucher said. “But the next morning, he was able to bend it, so that was some good news.”

South Africa’s next assignment is an all-format tour in England, with the white-ball sides due to depart on July 8. They are expected to name the squad next week.


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