Sport

THE FAST AND THE JUDICIOUS

Kagiso Rabada loves Test cricket, while navigating testing times and standing the test of time

Kagiso Rabada loves Test cricket, while navigating testing times and standing the test of time
Kagiso Rabada bowls during the first Test match between South Africa and West Indies at SuperSport Park in Centurion on 2 March 2023. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

Kagiso Rabada has long been one of the beacons of South African cricket. In spite of the pressures that come with this prominent role, the fast bowler has endured and excelled.

With each passing year, the world we live in evolves into a fast-paced environment where attention spans grow extremely short and the spirit of instant gratification reigns supreme.

Posted love letters have been replaced by instant messaging. In music, carefully curated albums have been replaced by viral TikTok singles. As for cricket, the shortest international format (in the form of T20) has gradually grown to overshadow its older siblings – One-day Internationals (ODIs) and Tests.

“With [the growth] T20 cricket and the game revolving a lot more around money, countries such as India, Australia and England have a lot more money to spend. So, they can have numerous tours. That’s an important factor,” South African fast bowler Kagiso Rabada said about the current state of cricket during a recent media engagement.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Wicketkeeper Sinalo Jafta soars to new heights after recently hitting rock bottom

“Countries that are not so fortunate when it comes to that (having money) – like us, New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – we get less Test matches,” the seamer added.

“It is concerning because we want the game to continue growing. We want Test cricket to remain a priority in South Africa. Especially when you have a young team.”

Kagiso Rabada bats against West Indies at SuperSport Park in Centurion on 2 March 2023. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

In spite of the talented bowler’s wishes and concerns, it is plainly evident that the future of cricket lies in T20s

Whether the current crop of cricketers, as well as the sport’s purists – who grew up idolising cricketing phenoms such as Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, Muttiah Muralitharan and Dale Steyn – agree or not.

When it comes to the record, there’s not much you can do if you’re not getting enough game time.

For Rabada – who made his debut for South Africa as a teenager in 2014 (before making his first Test bow a year later as a 20-year-old) – his yearning for more Tests is also personal.

At just 28 he has taken 280 Test wickets to date. In an ideal world he would have ample time to usurp former Proteas teammate Dale Steyn as South Africa’s most successful bowler in the longest format.

However, he still lags some way behind Steyn’s magnificent haul of 439 scalps. And seemingly has fewer matches to try to achieve the audacious coup d’état.  

“When it comes to the record, there’s not much you can do if you’re not getting enough game time. So, I’ve put that as an uncontrollable for myself. It’s something that I would like to achieve, but if it does not happen it’s not the end of the world,” said the Proteas pacer.

Art of endurance

Historically, some young players have crash-landed onto the global cricket scene, before disappearing as soon as they arrived. Rabada is one of those who have managed to avoid this trap. Almost a decade after making his splash in senior international cricket, he remains relevant. 

Kagiso Rabada celebrates with Temba Bavuma after his dismissal of Kraigg Brathwaite of West Indies at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on 11 March 2023. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

Rabada had already tasted stardom when he was one of the stars of the South African team that won the under-19 cricket World Cup in 2014, famously claiming a haul of six for 25 in the semifinal against Australia and being named player of the match.

If your perspective changes and you feel like the fame is more important, then you’re going to give in more to the fame, rather than your craft.

Since then, he has collected a plethora of player-of-the-match gongs thanks to his consistency and drive to remain in the upper echelons of international cricket.

“It’s about realising what’s important. If your perspective changes and you feel like the fame is more important, then you’re going to give in more to the fame, rather than your craft. For me my craft is what is the most important,” Rabada told Daily Maverick.

“I’m always challenging myself. If I have a good game, I still want to see where I can improve,” the seamer continued.  

“But at the same time, you’re not always going to have a good game. So, you also get humbled by the game. Which always gets you to introspect and go back to put in the hard yards.

Kagiso Rabada of the Proteas on day two of the second Test against West Indies at the Wanderers on 9 March 2023. (Photo: Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

“At the end of the day, it’s about what you want as an individual. For me that’s to be the best I can be. That’s how I judge myself within the sport. Outside the sport I’m just a normal guy.”

At the moment, Rabada is enjoying a rare hiatus away from competitive cricket. Though he has one eye on this year’s ODI World Cup.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cricket: Kagiso Rabada and the burden of expectation

“I’m building it up slowly and I’ve got my own cricket goals that I would like to achieve. And I’m working on those daily and I’m trying to set my shortcomings right. But at the same time, I want to improve on my strengths. That’s very important.”

The quadrennial showpiece will take place in India from 5 October and is expected to conclude on 19 November. The Proteas still dream of a maiden World Cup crown after falling short on previous occasions.

Rabada, whose contribution will be integral if this drought is to be snapped, said he and his teammates were inspired by the run of the Proteas women at the T20 World Cup on home soil earlier this year.

The South African men will look to push further than the women – who were vanquished in the final by Australia. DM

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