JOHANNESBURG – Temba Bavuma wants to hold face-to-face talks with the Proteas men’s team’s former assistant coach Enoch Nkwe to discuss the latter’s concerns about the side’s culture and environment.
Nkwe shocked the national team and Cricket South Africa, by resigning on the eve of the team’s tour to Sri Lanka, and in his resignation letter cited “concerns about the functioning and culture of the team environment.”
Those concerns are the subject of an investigation by Cricket SA, that acting CEO, Pholetsi Moseki, said would include gaining the perspectives of the players. Bavuma’s will undoubtedly be sought, but given his close personal relationship with Nkwe – built together at the Lions when Nkwe was coach and Bavuma captain – Bavuma wants to go deeper.
“When I get back to South Africa, I’d like to sit down with him, and maybe unpack it a bit,” Bavuma said from Colombo on Wednesday. “I’d like to hear it from him. He’s the subject at the end of the day. If there is merit and validity to his comments, then as a member of the team, it’s something I will take on board and then have a discussion amongst the team.”
Bavuma confirmed that private conversations about Nkwe’s resignation had occurred among the players but no official forum had been created for them to hear from Nkwe. “We’ve looked at ourselves as a team to see how best we can do things, that’s not to say the culture is an unhealthy one. Every team has areas in which they can improve, and you have to have those conversations to identify those areas.”
Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada, Rassie van der Dussen, Wiaan Mulder and Dwaine Pretorius were all part of the Lions team that achieved so much success under Nkwe’s watch in the 2018/19 season. Bavuma’s role as captain, the one tasked with implementing Nkwe’s vision in that particular side, meant the pair were close.
“From a tactical and strategic point of view – for me personally he was a good soundboard, a person who I used to test my ideas against. It helped that I had working experience with him from the domestic level,” said Bavuma.
He explained that the team culture was evolving, and faced challenges from external forces and internal ones alike. The revelations concerning head coach Mark Boucher at the Social Justice and Nation Building hearings and his subsequent submission to the hearings, that included an apology, will certainly have tested the culture. “For me to say whether it’s a bad culture – I don’t think it's at that point.”
‘It is something we are still cultivating. Conversations are happening amongst the team – hard, hard conversations, and at management levels, conversations that are challenging each other – all with a view to cultivating an environment that allows guys to play at their best but most importantly have that proper sense of belonging,” Bavuma explained.
The current generation of players have sought to move the team on from the days of ‘Protea Fire,’ an ethos developed by the likes of Faf du Plessis, Dale Steyn, JP Duminy and AB de Villiers.
The other test for that culture said Bavuma was the presence of two captains. He and Test captain Dean Elgar come from very different backgrounds and, as Bavuma acknowledged, thus have different perspectives.
“Dean and I do give ourselves the opportunity to share ideas as to how we’d like to take the team (forward). He obviously has his philosophy of doing things, I have my philosophy of doing things, so getting us to meet at some type of halfway (point) is that balancing act.”
Cricket SA’s Board of Directors have not outlined how the investigation into Nkwe’s concerns will be handled, but they do want it to take place quickly. The team is currently in Sri Lanka, preparing for a One-Day series that starts in Colombo on Thursday and then plays a T20 series next week. Following that a handful of players will head to the UAE to play in the Indian Premier League.
The rest, including Bavuma, will return to South Africa, with some possibly playing in Cricket SA’s new Knockout T20 competition. It doesn’t leave a lot of time to get a full account of everything related to the team's culture and the environment.