South African captain Temba Bavuma said the entire team was "surprised and taken aback" by Quinton de Kock's refusal to take a knee ahead of Tuesday's T20 World Cup encounter against West Indies. The game turned out to be one of his "toughest days" as skipper. Wicketkeeper-batter de Kock, who made himself unavailable for the game, is now expected to release a statement explaining his stance in the next few days.
"As a team, we are surprised and taken aback by the news. Quinton is a big player for the team, not just with the bat, but from a senior point of view, so not having this at my disposal, as a captain, is obviously something I wasn't looking forward to. In saying that, Quinton is an adult. He is a man in his own shoes. We respect his decision, we respect his convictions, and I know he will be standing behind the decision he has taken," said Bavuma after South Africa defeated West Indies by eight wickets.
CSA on Monday said it unanimously agreed to issue a directive after concerns were raised that the different postures taken by team members in support of the Black Lives Matter initiative created an unintended perception of disparity or lack of support for the initiative. De Kock had been a notable exception, opting to stand with his hands tucked behind his back.
Bavuma, who earlier this year became the first Black African to captain South Africa after replacing De Kock in the white-ball format, revealed that he came to know of de Kock's decision in the bus ride to Dubai. "Before getting on the bus to travel to Dubai, that message was passed on to the players. (In our) hour and a half to two hours' trip from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, Quinton made his decision," revealed Bavuma.
“I found out as the captain when I got to the changing room. There wasn't a great deal of time for us to thoroughly discuss this matter. Unfortunately, it was a matter of us digesting what we've been told and finding a way to move forward.
"This was probably one of the toughest days I've had to deal with as a captain, as a leader of the team, for obvious reasons with the off-field matters. Unfortunately, we had to get the job done. There was still a game of cricket for our country. 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."
South Africa are next scheduled to play Sri Lanka on Saturday. Bavuma said he still respects the stand of his senior player but wants to know why de Kock took that decision. "We have a few days before the next game and I think those days will be tough for the group. Guys who want to know in terms of his decision, will use that time to find out a bit better. Quinton is an adult. He made his decision. You have to respect it, whether you agree with it or not.
"As much as you have the choice to decide what you want to do, you can't escape the consequences of the choices and decisions we make. If there are people out there who think certain people need more clarity, then the fans, the media, it's best that you ask those guys directly. It becomes blurry when you are asking guys about other guys. If you are really wanting to get the clarity that you seem to want, you should probably ask those individuals themselves."
Asked if the other players were disappointed with de Kock's stance, Bavuma said: "I don't think it as simple as just taking a knee. We have to appreciate that we live in a country like South Africa that has its own past, that is diverse in its views, diverse in the way people see things, and their backgrounds and decisions that we take, things that we support, are based on our own convictions.
"As much as we are a team, we wear the same shirt, we play for the same badge, outside of that we still live our own lives and those lives are different by the very nature that we live in South Africa. Over the last while, I have learnt to appreciate that a lot more, try to widen your own perspective as an individual and not expect people to see things the way you see things.
"My beliefs, the way that I see things, is shaped by my own background, and so is the other person's. If there is a disagreement in terms of beliefs, in terms of views, that's why we have those hard conversations. Through those conversations we will be able to get the comfort to accept the other person's decision. I can't force anyone to see things the way I do, neither can they force me to."
Cricket South Africa have made it clear that the players and the support staff will continue to take a knee ahead of every game and that has made de Kock's participation in the rest of the tournament uncertain. "I don't know how far it is going to develop. The decision he has 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 get a substitute. That will most probably be the coach and the selectors.
"Quinton is still one of the players, one of the boys, whatever support he needs, whatever shoulder he requires from his team-mates, will be there for him. If there is a need for further conversations to be had, those will definitely happen."
Amidst all the chaos, South Africa completely outplayed West Indies in their second group game and Bavuma wants his team to focus on the remaining three matches. "We have to keep focusing as much as we can on the team, particularly matters on the field. We will lose a lot of energy as players if we start giving 100% to everything being discussed outside of the team.
"At the end of the day, you are going to judge us on how well we bowled a ball or how we hit a ball. I don't think you will be looking at the fact that we were martyrs or we stood for whatever cause. Me, being the leader of the side at the moment, is to make sure our eye is on the ball."