“We understand conditions a lot better so you’d expect us to adapt a lot better but their bowling is quite strong,” he said in Centurion, where the first Test starts on Boxing Day. “The fact that they’ve been able to achieve such success is because of their bowling attack and that kind of nullifies the advantage we have. It’s more between the batters and how the batters take on that challenge.”
And it could make one of the most interesting storylines of the series, even if it does not seem so at first glance.
“For me as a batter, the bowlers are going to put you under pressure and their batting line-up as well, they [India] have got renowned Test players and guys who performed in all conditions”
Both have spoken about the significance of maintaining South Africa’s unbeaten home record against India, and Bavuma expanded on that by referencing the unique pressures that come with playing India.
“There’s a lot of pride attached to that – that we’ve been able to keep that record intact as a South African team… all of us as players also feel that,” he said. “But we understand playing against India comes with certain challenges and it’s those types of challenges we would like to focus on. Playing against India comes with a lot more eyes and a lot more scrutiny in terms of everything we do. So it’s accepting that. And the other, more obvious one, is the skill factor on the field. For me as a batter, the bowlers are going to put you under pressure and their batting line-up as well, they’ve got renowned Test players and guys who performed in all conditions. They are a determined team as well, who want to be able to say they’ve won a Test series here in South Africa so with that extra bit of drive and motivation, we’ll really need to be at our best.”
And for Bavuma himself, the last part of that sentence rings particularly true after a tough World Cup, where his form was under the microscope. He has not had any game time since South Africa’s semi-final loss to Australia more than a month ago so it’s difficult to say what kind of touch he is in. He was due to play in a first-class match from December 14 to 17 but withdrew to attend a funeral, which means he has not played any long-format cricket since March.
In the time since, he has become a father, led South Africa at a World Cup, and will now take up his position as skipper and middle-order batter against India. Is he ready? “Mentally I am as fresh as ever,” he said. “I didn’t get any red-ball cricket. Things happened with a bereavement at home. But I’ve enjoyed the time being at home, with the wife and the little one but I missed the cricket and was watching the guys in T20Is and ODIs. We don’t usually get breaks this long, especially in-season so I’ll take the break.”
And from here on, it’s a full summer and a busy 2024, in which South Africa will play ten Tests and Bavuma will look to create history with the red-ball side.