IND v SA: Coping with heat, top-order solidity on Temba Bavuma’s mind

It is no secret that 2022 has been the year where New Delhi, India’s capital city, has been reeling under an intense heatwave, signs of which were visible from late March. With Delhi’s summer peaking from April onwards, the temperature began to surge higher and higher despite some unseasonal rain making brief appearances in late May.

In this sweltering backdrop, South Africa are in the city to kick off their T20I series against India on Thursday. But in the words of their captain Temba Bavuma, the conditions have been way too hot for their expectations from Delhi weather.

“We expected it to be hot, but not this hot. We are fortunate that the games are being played at night, when it’s bearable. During the day guys try to look after themselves as much as possible and drink a lot more water than the normal beer they drink at home. And just keep as mentally fresh as they can,” said Bavuma to reporters on the eve of the series opener.

Since the time the South Africa squad arrived in India on June 2, the mercury has been extremely high, touching the 40 degrees mark and above consistently.

On Thursday, when the teams take the field at Arun Jaitley Stadium, the weather forecast says the temperature is expected to be 38 degrees, when 42 degrees is the highest temperature predicted for the day. Though India Meteorological Department (IMD) says that Delhi will receive some rainfall on June 10, both teams would have left for the second match at Cuttack, Odisha.

“It’s not something we’re used to back home. Cramping, hydration, and fatigue are big things. We don’t have much time and you can only get used to it by actually playing in this type of heat, which we will be doing in competitive games. Like I said, hydrate yourself as much as you can, manage your energies as much as you can, try and recover as well as you can in and around the games, those become very important. Once you’re in the game you’ve got to try and stay in the battle, and hopefully, your body keeps up with everything,” added Bavuma.

His Indian counterpart and hometown lad, Rishabh Pant, appointed as captain in a last-minute change after KL Rahul was ruled out of the entire series due to a right groin injury, feels his team will take the heat in their stride and keep their focus strictly on Thursday’s match.

“This is the first time we are playing in these kinds of conditions in India after a long time. But I think the heat plays its part. We might get dehydrated, tired early. But I think, it’s part and parcel of the game. We just have to keep improving, not think about the heat too much, focus on our game, tactics and let’s see how the game unfolds.”

For the visitors, who are playing in a T20I series for the first time since the Men’s T20 World Cup last year, India has been a happy hunting ground. They won 2-0 here in 2015 and went on to draw 1-1 in 2019. It will also be the first time South Africa will be facing India after registering 2-1 and 3-0 wins in Tests and ODIs respectively earlier this year.

Bavuma had said earlier that they would like to achieve top-order solidity from the series against India. On the eve of the Delhi T20I, Bavuma hinted at him partnering with wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock at the top.

“That’s the area where we would like to create a lot more solidity, Quinton and myself partnering at the top and letting that extend to the World Cup. The guys in the middle order are quite settled. We’ve got a young guy like Tristan Stubbs, who I’m sure will get his opportunity somewhere along the line. We’d like to see how he can be of great value within the line-up. We’ll give guys opportunities in the games that we’ll play leading up to the World Cup so we can create consistency.”

Another key player in South Africa’s scheme of things, tearaway pacer Anrich Nortje, is slowly getting back to cricketing action after a persistent hip injury kept him out of South Africa’s matches after World Cup till the start of IPL 2022, where he turned out for Delhi Capitals in six matches, scalping nine wickets but looked far from his best self. Bavuma backed the right-arm pacer to find his groove against India.

“Anrich is a big player for us, an integral part of the bowling unit. When he joined the IPL, he had come off a huge layoff due to injury. But the more he plays, the closer he will get to the levels he is capable of. He is an important member of the team and we expect him to perform accordingly.”

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