SUDIPTA BISWAS | 7 AUGUST, 2017
South Africa head coach Russell Domingo described young fast bowler Kagiso Rabada as ‘a diamond’. After his debut in international cricket, Rabada attracted the imagination of cricket critics because modern cricket got a genuine fast bowler, who can regularly clock 85 miles.
The right-arm first bowler burst into international cricket with a hat-trick in his debut One-Day International against Bangladesh in July 2015 in Mirpur, becoming the only third South African bowler to claim a hat-trick in the process. Since his debut, Rabada has become an integral member of the South African bowling unit.
Observing Rabada's meteoritic rise from close quarters, South Africa head coach Russell Domingo said, “He’s a diamond… there is something special about him, and his performances in franchise cricket show that. We want to invest in him, give him every opportunity to develop. He’s got something, as a cricketer and as a person.”
From the very beginning, Rabada was tagged as ‘black Marshall’ of modern cricket by former Proteas fast bowler Allan Donald for sporting a similar look and posing similar bowling skills to late West Indies fast bowling great Malcolm Marshall.
Since his debut, Rabada has taken 81 Test wickets and 65 ODI wickets in 33 innings and 39 ODIs respectively. He has an enviable economy rate in both formats of the game. While he has 3.46 and 5.11 economy rate in Test and ODI cricket respectively.
Challenge in international cricket!!
However, during his rise in international cricket, he had to face several challenges. In January 2015, in a T20I match, he was taught a harsh lesson when Chris Gayle smashed him for 26 runs in two overs at Newland Cricket Ground in Cape Town. “He picked on me first. He tried to knock my head off,” said Gayle in a post match ceremony, before adding that Rabada has a bright future ahead of him. The match helped Rabada to work on his weakness and come out as a lethal young fast bowler.
Now, Rabada is widely forecast to succeed Dale Steyn as South African bowling spearhead. In the ongoing England tour, he has finished as the highest wicket-taker in ODI series with seven wicket haul while in Test he has taken 14 wickets in three matches so far.
The 22-year-old fast bowler acknowledged that he didn’t have a good tour in England, but he bowled some deadly deliveries in his first England tour. The way he dismissed David Malan on the first day of the third Test with a perfect in swinging yorker the batsman perhaps lost his confidence as his defense was rattled.
However, this is the first time he pierced through opposition batsmen’s defense. Just before the tour of England the visitors lost their pace spearhead Dale Steyn, who is out of the team since South Africa’s tour of Australia, failed to recover from his shoulder pain. Steyn’s absence in this big tour was a big challenge for Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis. But, the team management was happy to have Rabada in their rank as a leader of the bowling unit. During this series, he was accompanied by Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, and Chris Morris.
Rabada missed the Trent Bridge, which South Africa won by massive 340 runs because he had breached ICC Players’ Code of Conduct giving England all-rounder Ben Stokes a rude send off. But, it is a part and parcel of a fast bowler’s career. This is not the first time he has given a send off to a left-hander, in 2016-2017 Australia tour he bowled out Nic Maddison for a golden duck in the first ball. Rabada bowled a 144 kph delivery which knocked the stumps of Maddison. Fiery fast bowler, who was fired up predicting his wicket, had given an animated send off to the Aussie batsman.
What is his story?
Rabada’s rise in South African cricket is an example of how seriously the black community of the nation takes to cricket. Rabada, unlike other black cricketers, many of whom have a lower-economic background, is well educated and studied at the posh private school of St Stithians College in Johannesburg. His father is a doctor while his mother is in asset management. Hence, his parents could afford his education at a good college and ensured their son got the best education in the city. His background is an indication of the economic rise and social mobility of the community in the country.
St Stithians College is in fact the reason behind Rabada’s emergence i as a tough fast bowler. Rabada was initially good in rugby but his school coach asked him to try cricket. "I tried to throw the ball as quick as I could, then I learned you have to keep your arm straight," revealed Rabada.
This college helped him to excel in cricket. He trained there and got a chance to represent South Africa U-19 in the youth world in UAE in 2014. He finished the tournament with 14 wickets and caught the eyes of cricket fans bowling with searing pace. Following the U-19 World Cup, he was given a chance to make his international debut against Australia in a T20I.
Modern cricket’s Marshal is also a handy lower order batsman. Current coach Domingo believes Rabada will make a solid contribution to the South African lower order as a batsman but he should learn a bit about batting.
The rise of a genuine fast bowler like Rabada is a good sign for cricket. Cricket fans can still imagine the rivalry between good batsmen and fast bowlers, who bowl at a lightning pace.