Johannesburg - The demand for Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada went global a few days ago when the Delhi Daredevils were successful in their bid at the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction for the third highest fee, in a price-tie he shared with New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult, who was snapped up by the Kolkata Knight Riders.
While Rabada, nicknamed KG, may not have been particularly enthused after live-streaming Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget speech – the 21-year-old now falls firmly into that nasty 45% taxation bracket – he still has R9.8 million worth of reasons to smile.
But while his auction price confirms what the past two years have been showing us – that we have outstanding talent here – will South African cricket be well served by having Rabada add a six-week-long tournament to his already crowded schedule?
Having started his current season in August, the first opportunity that KG will get to draw a breath will be in August, after the Test series against England.
While he is freakishly strong for a 21-year-old, is there a risk of playing him into the ground?
Workload will tell
Lions coach Geoff Toyana, who coached Rabada at provincial level, thinks not. If anything, he is excited by the player’s potential growth in a competition teeming with international players.
“We will have to see if the knee niggle he had, which prompted the Proteas to rest him the past few days, was a precaution or [something] more serious, but I am not concerned,” said Toyana.
“We already knew last year that he wanted to go to the IPL, but [Lions bowling coach] Gordon Parsons and I advised him to get experience in county cricket first.
“The key for me is his workload. When there are no games to play, he must not over-bowl in the nets.”
Rabada is a notoriously hard trainer.
“The Proteas are also going to have to look after him because, when he reaches the age of 24 or 25, the workload will tell. But I do not think the IPL takes a toll on the body.”
Toyana said the added bonus to the move would be Rabada’s education at what is pretty much the home of 20-over cricket: “It will be good for the Proteas going into the T20 World Cup [next year] because the grounds are small in India and there is a small margin for error for the bowler.”
Former Proteas coach Eric Simons, who also coached the Delhi Daredevils in 2012/13, echoed Toyana’s sentiments about the opportunity Rabada would have to learn in the IPL.
“It has been said that even Test cricket is not as intense as the IPL because of who you are up against in every game. The way information is shared in the IPL is remarkable. There are no secrets.
It is a good place for a young cricketer to learn. He will be learning from those guys as well and Indian fast bowlers have to be innovative in those conditions,” he said.
Which may well be the next problem for Rabada. The young fast bowler’s main asset has been his novelty factor wherever he has gone so far.
A season in the IPL should mean there is little that the rest of the free world will not know about him by the time he is done.
"Toyana is keen for his charge to box clever: “With modern technology, there is little that players do not know about the opposition, but I hope KG does not reveal all his secrets.
"If he has [India captain Virat] Kohli in his team, for example, Kohli will know what makes him tick, even on bad days.”
To underline the importance of keeping something up one’s sleeve, Simons told a scarcely believable story about the West Indies’ mystery spinner, Sunil Narine.
“I once asked the West Indies guys if they knew what he was doing and they said they had no clue. They said all Narine did in the nets was bowl off spinners because he did not know when any of them would be the opposition in the IPL. I think Kagiso must also be clever.”
Simons said the greatest issue for Rabada could well be his purchase price by the Daredevils.
“One of the burdens he will carry is his price tag. He has never been paid that much money to play and I have seen guys struggle to deal with their price tags in their first season. But he strikes me as a level-headed guy.”