Kagiso Rabada: A beacon of hope for South Africa

South African cricket has always been blessed with great fast bowlers. The likes of Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn have set the trend going. These three have been match winners in their respective careers and have won lot of matches for their team across formats. Keeping the culture of fast bowling alive in the country, Kagiso Rabada is the latest sensation to come out of the country. Recently South Africa’s spearhead, Steyn was cut down by a recurring shoulder injury on day two and ruled out for at least the rest of the summer. It gave Australia some hope of holding on in the final innings of the first Test, but Rabada was all over the hosts. He finished with a solid match figures of 7-170, but it was the 5-92 in the second dig — his fourth five-wicket haul in 15 Test innings — that signalled his arrival as the leader of the pace pack. And, while he can get the ball up to that magical 150kph mark, the 21-year-old’s maturity is equally encouraging as he looks to balance Steyn’s fire and Vernon Philander’s persistence. “I believe you have to set a batsman up, you can’t always go for glory balls. I can say you learn from other people and you also learn through experience,” he told Grandstand after play on day five. “It was important for us to really contribute, we knew we had to do extra and we had to wake up a bit when Dale was gone,” he said. “It’s just how this Test match went. On other days we’re going to have Dale and we might not win. I think this is just the way it was scripted, but we had to work hard and bowl the ball in the right area and everybody contributed,” he added.

Early life and career

Rabada attended St Stithians Boys College, leaving the school in 2013. He made his debut for the Gauteng in the CSA Provincial One-Day Competition against Border in December 2013. He was chosen to represent South Africa’s Under-19 side for the 2014 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup. As South Africa won the tournament, he was their best bowler claiming the 2nd most wickets (14) in the tournament at an economy rate of 3.10. He also claimed the best figures of the tournament: 6/25 against Australia A. This led to him being dubbed “the fastest and most feared bowler in the competition”. His performances in the Under-19 World Cup saw him being picked into the Lions franchise side for their last two games of the Sunfoil Series season. He took 7 wickets for 186 in these two matches. In February 2015, Rabada took a record 14 wickets in a match for Lions against Dolphins, including 9 for 33 in the second innings. His 14 for 105 are the best figures in the franchise era of South African cricket.

A record performer

He made his Twenty20 International debut for South Africa against Australia on 5 November 2014. He made his One Day International debut for South Africa against Bangladesh on 10 July 2015, achieving best figures of 6/16 on debut. He became only the second player, after Taijul Islam, to take a hat-trick on debut in an ODI match. He made his Test debut for South Africa against India on 5 November 2015. In the fourth Test of England’s 2015–16 tour of South Africa, he finished with figures of 13/144 helping his team win the game. In the process, he became the youngest South African to take a ten-wicket haul in a Test, and the figures were his team’s second best ever, after Makhaya Ntini’s 13/132.

Rising to fame

Kagiso Rabada hit the record books for a six when he was named South African Cricketer of the Year and in all received a total of SIX awards at a glittering Cricket South Africa (CSA) awards banquet in Sandton. He is the first player to win six individual awards - both AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla had previously won five - and at the age of 21 years 62 days is by far the youngest to have won South African cricket’s premier accolade. In addition to the main award, Rabada was named Test Cricketer of the Year and ODI Cricketer of the Year. He was also honoured by his peers by being named SA Players’ Player of the Year and by the fans on being named SA Fans Player of the Year. He received his sixth award for bowling the Delivery of the Year to England’s Jason Roy in the T20 International at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium. The only awards he did not win for which he was eligible were the T20 International Player of the Year award that went to Imran Tahir and the KFC So Good award that went to Temba Bavuma.

Thriving on challenges

Apart from his wicket taking abilities, he knows how to defend totals in the shorter formats of the game. He came to India with his national team and during one of the ODIs in Kanpur, he was asked to bowl the last over with MS Dhoni at the crease. The runs required were only eleven and everyone was counting on the Indian captain as he is famous for such situations. However, the young Rabada had different plans in mind and he executed them with perfection. He not only dismissed MS Dhoni and one more batsman but also carried his team to victory after conceding just five runs. This was enough to show that this lad is made for big things and the situation could have got better of him had he not applied his brain. He has passed each and every test with flying colours till date but will have to stay grounded if he wants to continue churning out match winning performances in the future. The Proteas team is lucky to have a bowler like him in the ranks as he is here to stay for a long run and has the talent to be the best in the business.

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