On a day when South Africa were clinical in getting their first win at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021, captain Temba Bavuma was left dealing with the fallout of teammate Quinton de Kock’s decision to opt out of the game.
Bavuma said he was “taken aback” at de Kock's decision, which he found out in the changing room just before the start of the match against West Indies in Dubai.
And while Bavuma said his teammate is still “one of the boys” the team are bracing for challenging conversations in coming days.
Although de Kock himself has not elaborated on missing the game, statements from Cricket South Africa and Bavuma make it clear the decision had to do with CSA’s directive for all players to take the knee at the start of the game.
"We as a team were surprised and taken aback by the news," Bavuma said. "Quinton is a big player for the team, not only with the bat but also the role he plays from an experience point of view. Not having that at my disposal as a captain was obviously not something I was looking forward to.
"In saying that, Quinton is an adult. He’s a man in his own shoes. We respect his decision, we respect his convictions."
Bavuma was pragmatic when quizzed about de Kock's future playing for South Africa.
"It wouldn’t be my decision whether to replace Quinton or get a substitute," said Bavuma.
"As far as we stand, Quinton is still one of the players, one of the boys. So whatever support that he needs, whatever shoulder that he requires from his teammates will be there for him.
"And if there’s a need for further conversations to be had, those will definitely happen among the guys."
The skipper clarified that the instructions from the board to take the knee – "in a united and consistent stance" as the CSA statement later put it – was taken on the morning of the game. The message was passed on to them before they got on to the bus to travel to Dubai.
"The trip was about an hour and half to two hours. In that trip I guess that’s where Quinton made his decision. I found out when we got to the changing room.
"[The timing] was probably not ideal," he added. "The good thing is we were still able to find a way to get on the field and represent our country the way we did."
Quinton is still one of the players, one of the boys. So whatever support that he needs, whatever shoulder that he requires from his teammates will be there for him. And if there’s a need for further conversations to be had, those will definitely happen among the guys.
The timing meant the team had not had the time to discuss the matter with de Kock and clear the air, he explained.
"You've got to appreciate the fact that the instruction came this morning from the board and there wasn't a great deal of time for us to thoroughly discuss the matter. Unfortunately for us as players it was a matter of us digesting what we were told and finding a way for us to move forward.
"We have a couple of days before the next game. Those days will be tough for the group but guys who want to know his decision they will use the time to find it out a bit better."
At the start of the match, Daren Sammy, former West Indies captain, had said on commentary: "I don’t understand why it is so difficult to support this movement, if you understand what it stands for. There might be a lot of issues affecting the world, but I don’t understand why it’s so difficult."
Bavuma, however, expanded on the complexity of the issue when pressed on the directive and related discussion.
"I don't think it is as simple as taking the knee," he said. "We have to appreciate the fact that we live in a country like South Africa, that has its own past. That is diverse in its views and in the way people see things, their backgrounds, things that we support.
"As much as we are a team, we wear the same shirt, we play for the badge. But outside of that, we live our own lives and those lives are different by the very nature that we live in South Africa. For me, I’ve learnt to appreciate it a lot more, try to widen your own perspective as an individual and not expect people to see the things the way I see things.
"If there is a disagreement in terms of beliefs, that’s why we have those hard conversations."
Bavuma said although the bowlers and batters gave him plenty to celebrate, it was one of his “toughest days” as captain.
"We still had to get the job done. There was still a game of cricket for our country. And it was important that as much as everything was happening, we found a way to get into the right mental space and take it home for our country," he said. "I was just glad we were able to get into the right frame of mind as a team and played the way we played."
West Indies captain Kieron Pollard refused to speculate on the issue, but reiterated his team's commitment to taking the knee.
"It's something that we feel strongly about as a team and as a people, as well, and we will continue to do it," he said. "Each and everyone has their own opinions on it, but as I've always said, once you're educated and you understand, we will understand you doing it, but I think education sort of is the key, and we don't want anyone doing it for us in solitude or to feel sorry for us."