Two and a half years ago when South Africa arrived in India for a four match Test series as the world's number one side in the longest format, not many people had heard about the diminutive middle order batsman Temba Bavuma, who was part of the squad.
A packed middle order which had the likes of AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy had no room for the youngster, who had a half-century in Bangladesh to show for the limited opportunities he had got thus far. But two losses in three matches meant Bavuma got the nod for the final Test in Delhi. The track at the Feroz Shah Kotla was a minefield, turning square from Day 1, as had been the norm throughout the series. Bavuma opened the innings for the Proteas in both the essays. His contributions of 22 and 34 in the two innings weren't something to write home about, but what came through in those knocks was Bavuma's ability to apply himself on a difficult track and the will to grind it out in the middle.
More opportunities followed soon after and the Cape Town lad made a name for himself with impressive knocks in the South African middle order, which included a maiden Test ton against England in his backyard in Cape Town.
South African cricket went into a state of shock recently with the retirement of AB de Villiers from all forms of international cricket. But Bavuma is looking at this development as an opportunity to make the no.4 spot in the Test line-up his own.
"I will be opportunistic because there is a spot open for someone to come in at No. 4 and I am putting up my hand for that position " Bavuma said at a training camp in Pretoria on Tuesday. "Hopefully the selectors are looking towards me. But, if not, wherever they want me to play I will try to execute as best as possible."
Bavuma has spent most of his career at the number 6 position, but he has had a prior taste of batting at the number 4 spot, that too with considerable amount of success. While Bavuma's career average hovers around the mid-30s, his numbers are a shade above 40 while batting at the number 4 spot.
"I had the opportunity in England and I quite enjoyed it even though it was a tough Test match and series " he said. "I enjoyed the responsibility, and in a way it is something that could help my game because I have not been able to convert most of my starts. Coming in at No. 4 the opportunity is there to score those big runs and it goes hand in hand with what I am trying to achieve. But the decision rests with the selectors the coach and the captain."
Bavuma was part of the South African team that registered a historic Test series win against Australia on home soil earlier this year. While he failed to get going in the Cape Town Test, the middle-order batsman hit back with unbeaten knocks of 95 and 34 in the final Test. South Africa next play two Test matches against Sri Lanka away from home and Bavuma is up for the challenge.
"Playing on the subcontinent is different from playing here at home because spin becomes a key thing " he said. "You must be able to rotate off the spin and also to hit boundaries. It is about familiarising yourself to the challenges where the ball will be spinning and you must have a game plan for that. I have never been to Sri Lanka but I will try to make it a good one for myself and the team."