‘Heaps of talent’ Rabada says of Maphaka, with the two quicks boasting many similarities 

‘Heaps of talent’ Rabada says of Maphaka, with the two quicks boasting many similarities 
Left: Kwena Maphaka at CSA Centre of Excellence, Pretoria. 28 June 28 2023. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Gallo Images) Kagiso Rabada during the CSA 4-Day Domestic Series at Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg. 29 February 2024. (Photo: Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

Kagiso Rabada has taken young Kwena Maphaka under his wing at his sporting agency, helping to guide him to his full potential.

Kwena Maphaka wrote his name in the history books at the under-19 World Cup this year. The young left-arm quick bowler took 21 wickets in the six matches he played — the second most in a single tournament — taking his overall tally to 28 wickets in nine matches at junior World Cups.

His 28 scalps are tied most with Zimbabwe’s Wessly Madhevere, although Madhevere took double the number of matches to reach the total.

Despite the standout performances by Maphaka throughout the competition, South Africa were felled by India at the semifinal stage.

His rapid pace and control beyond his years exhibited at the tournament saw Maphaka earn a surprise Indian Premier League (IPL) contract with the Mark Boucher-led Mumbai Indians.

A decade prior, at the 2014 edition of the under-19 World Cup, it was Kagiso Rabada’s pace, bounce and fierce competitiveness that caught the eye.

Rabada only played five matches but took 14 wickets, including a return of six wickets for 25 runs in the semifinal of the showpiece against Australia to book South Africa’s ticket to the final.

The Aiden Markram-captained side clinched the final and the tournament with a convincing six-wicket win to secure South Africa’s first-ever World Cup silverware, albeit at under-19 level.

It took Rabada a little while longer to break into the IPL, making his first appearance in 2017 as a 21-year-old. Nonetheless, the paths of the two fast bowlers — paved by Rabada — are very similar.

Kwena Maphaka

Kwena Maphaka of the Lions during the CSA T20 Challenge match against Gbets Rocks at Wanderers in Johannesburg. 8 March 2024. (Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

A similar path

Both bowlers attended St Stithians College high school in Gauteng where they began to hone their skills.

And while the resemblances to their careers are almost identical at this stage, Rabada is eager to avoid any comparison so as to not add any pressure on Maphaka

“There are a lot of similarities there,” Rabada said to Daily Maverick. “Both bowlers, both came from Saints, both are black, both our names start with a K as well.

“But he has his own journey to walk now. The last thing that you want is people to be comparing him to me or comparing him to [Jasprit] Bumrah or comparing him to Shaun Pollock.

“He’s his own guy. It’s nice to be compared to certain players but I think he’s going to write his own story so I can’t wait to see what that entails.”

While Maphaka’s story is in his own hands, Rabada is willing to provide some of the tools to write it.

Rabada, alongside sports businessman Ashley Kotzin, co-founded a sporting agency called KGR Sport and Entertainment. They have signed several sports stars including Protea women Ayabonga Khaka and Karabo Meso.

Read more in Daily Maverick: It’s been very quick progress for a young Joburg cricketing prodigy

Maphaka has also recently penned his signature to the agency. This provides Rabada with an opportunity to take the 18-year-old under his wing.

“Kwena comes from a good family. He’s a good kid and he’s got heaps of talent,” the Red Bull athlete explained.

Kagiso Rabada

Kagiso Rabada of the Lions during the CSA T20 Challenge match between the Lions and the Titans at Wanderers, Johannesburg. 15 March 2024. (Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

“The goal there is to provide opportunity and also to nurture talent and also to look at nurturing not only on the field but also off the field. It’s about having that holistic approach.

“I definitely did have a conversation with [Maphaka] to say there’s no pressure on him.

“There’s absolutely no pressure on him and he’s got the world at his feet. The world is his oyster and he’s going to have to do a lot of hard yards.

“There’s going to be lots of ups and there’s going to be downs too. It’s just the way he’s going to navigate through the lows and the highs too that’s going to be a defining factor.

“But everything is there. He’s got the mind, he’s got the skill, he’s got the talent.

“Now it’s for him to just keep ticking on.”

Kwena Maphaka

Kwena Maphaka. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

A slow start

Maphaka had a rude awakening to the IPL, conceding 66 runs and taking no wickets in his first outing against Sunrisers Hyderabad.

His second match went slightly better as he picked up his maiden wicket, that of Indian opener Yashasvi Jaiswal. His economy rate still exceeded 11 though and he only bowled two overs.

Those were consecutive matches at the end of March and start of April. He didn’t play another match.

Rabada’s introduction to professional cricket wasn’t smooth sailing either. In his first international match for the country, as a 19-year-old, he conceded 11 runs off his first over.

It’s only been uphill since then for the Proteas spearhead, who has, through experience, learned to keep asking for the ball even if he has been smashed before.

“It’s a mixture of decision-making and intuition in terms of where you feel the game’s headed, and what you feel the batter’s going to do,” Rabada explained about his thought process when under the pump in a match.

“It’s a mixture of gathering data around what the pitch is doing, the dimensions of the ground and where your team is — whether you’re under pressure or not.

“Then it’s about gathering all of that [information] and making a decision whilst you’re walking back to your mark and when you get to your mark, it’s about having made a decision.

“When you start running in, you just trust that whatever you worked out is going to come off.

“Other times, it’s also about competition. You’re not just going to let anyone hit you around. It’s competition, you need that too, that bit of gees,” he said.

Maphaka, while walking his own journey, is the perfect mentor to help with guidance in Rabada, who was able to develop from a junior prodigy into a global superstar. DM


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