Cape Town – The bowling burden of that outstanding young
jewel in the South African crown, Kagiso Rabada, will come even more intensely
under a microscope with the departure for foreign climes of willing workhorse
Cricket South Africa coaches and officials are seldom slow
to acknowledge that the extraordinarily gifted 21-year-old – fresh off a second
Test match haul of 10 wickets or more at Newlands after only 13 appearances –
requires “management”, even if the pudding has not yet demonstrated especially significant
proof on that front.
Rabada continues to be liberally deployed by the Proteas
across the three formats, with rest-related sit-outs few and far between.
Of course the reflex temptation is to field him at every
opportunity, such is his appeal both as a match-winning factor and in a stadium
drawcard and PR-strategic sense.
But sooner rather than later, hopefully, CSA bosses will
need to take more conscious steps – Australia are particularly big on rotating
pacemen, even if they can be accused sometimes of taking things to extremes –
to curtail the workload of Rabada.
Although you cannot automatically always blame fatigue,
there were some signs during the first Test against Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth
that Rabada was just off his customary lofty standards and struggling for
optimal speed even if St George’s Park is the kind of strip where it makes
sense to bowl a bit within yourself at times.
Of course he came roaring back on a more favourable, pacier
surface as the Proteas brutally sealed the series at Newlands; there can be no
doubting his fitness and pure enthusiasm to go with the array of
bowling-specific attributes he possesses.
With a dead-rubber Test looming at the Wanderers from
Thursday, it might seem a glorious opportunity to pull him temporarily out of
the plans as the Proteas still have a heavy, far-and-wide roster over the next
But Abbott’s Kolpak-related curveball, meaning he is lost to
the national cause at 29 and on top of his game, means the team are suddenly
rather short of seasoned seam stocks, considering also the long-term Dale Steyn
injury and the fact that Morne Morkel is not quite ready yet for a five-day
Rabada has become significantly more senior in the attack,
as a consequence, than he might ever have imagined a year or 18 months back,
and it is certainly a concern that Abbott, renowned for his own experience,
stamina and nagging discipline, has bailed out of the mix because “KG” may be
leaned on more, rather than less, for pivotal spells and volume of overs.
The Proteas have pleasingly added domestically in-form rookie
Duanne Olivier, 24, to the squad for the Bullring, even if Wayne Parnell may
remain the next cab off the rank to replace Abbott there; Olivier would more
certainly get his big chance if SA decide to go all-pace and sacrifice spinner Keshav
Naturally Rabada is hardly going to wish to sit out a Test
at his home venue with its appealing bounce and carry – dead rubber or not -- and
just based on current mojo his presence will be additionally irresistible.
In further defence of his presence at the Wanderers, few
Proteas seamers have been too over-burdened on the overs front during the
‘Lankan series thus far, given its relative one-sidedness and tendency toward
pretty early finishes.
But with the three-Test series in New Zealand just up the
road in mind, those who cherish Rabada having a long, suitably energetic and
injury-free career for South Africa are sure to harbour the hope – as does this
writer – that his role in the limited-overs portions of the Sri Lanka series is
quite noticeably, profoundly curtailed.
Coach Russell Domingo has, encouragingly, already been
making appropriate noises on that subject.
He was quoted as saying in the aftermath of the Newlands
Test that, just for one thing, “I am looking to rest quite a lot of senior
players for the (three-match) T20 series”.
You would fervently hope Kagiso Rabada falls into that
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