South Africa captain Temba Bavuma was lauded for posing a brave front in the press conference after their T20 World Cup match against West Indies in which the questions were largely on Quinton de Kock's decision to make himself unavailable for selection. There was a lot of confusion and disbelief when Bavuma, at the toss, revealed that de Kock has made himself unavailable.
Later on, Cricket South Africa released a statement confirming that the former South Africa captain had decided to give the West Indies match a miss because of his reservations in taking the knee - a global gesture accepted by sportspersons across the globe in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Bavuma, backing de Kock fully, said the South African team is behind the wicketkeeper-batter and respects his decision.
"Quinton is an adult. He's a man in his own shoes. We respect his decision. We respect his convictions," Bavuma, who is South Africa's first black cricket captain, said at a media interaction after his side defeated the defending champions by eight wickets.
Lending full support to de Kock, the skipper said, "As far as we stand, Quinton is still one of the players. He's still one of the boys, so whatever support that he needs, whatever shoulder that he requires from his teammates, we'll be there for him."
"If there's a need for further conversations to be had, I'm sure those will definitely happen among the guys."
Bavuma, who has also received plaudits for his captaincy skills and unusual yet successful field placements, in his short career as the skipper, was lauded by journalists and cricket experts for the way he handled the otherwise difficult situation.
Cricket South Africa had on Monday evening unanimously agreed to issue a directive requiring Proteas to adopt a consistent and united stance against racism by taking the knee prior to the start of their remaining World Cup matches.
The instruction from the board came in this morning and a meeting was convened between a couple of team members before being passed on to the players when they were to travel to Dubai, Bavuma said giving a timeline of the events.
"I think the trip was about an hour and a half to two hours. I guess that's where Quinton made his decision. We found out -- I found out as the captain when we got to the changing room."
Bavuma said it was not ideal to get the directive just before the match but acknowledged that there never was going to be an ideal time.
"It definitely wasn't ideal. But I think in any case, we would have had to deal with it as players, whether the instruction came this morning, whether it came last night. I think we would have had to deal with it as players," he said.
"Obviously as a team, we're surprised and taken aback by the news. Quinton is a big player for the team, not just with the bat.
"But the role he plays from a senior point of view and from an experience point of view, and not having that at my disposal as a captain was obviously something I wasn't looking forward to."
The star wicketkeeper-batter had made it clear in the past as well that the gesture should be an individual choice. He has mostly opted to stand with his hands slung casually behind his back while various gestures were adopted in the past.
Asked whether they would seek a replacement if de Kock continues the stand of not taking the knee, Bavuma said: "I don't know how far it's going to develop."
"I mean, the decision that he's taken is only today, so I can only speak about what has happened today. It wouldn't be my decision whether to replace Quinton or to get a substitute. That would be the coach and the selectors' call."Despite the setback, South Africa cruised to their first Super 12s win. They restricted the defending champions to 143/8 and then rode on solid batting displays from Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen to canter home with 10 balls to spare.
"I think we have to keep focusing as much as we can on the team, most particularly about matters on the field. I think we'll lose a lot of energy as players if we start giving 100 per cent to everything that is, I guess, being discussed outside of the team.
"At the end of the day, I think you guys are going to judge us by how well we bowl the ball and how well we hit the ball. That's what you're going to judge us by at the end of the day," he concluded.