Cape Town - It
would have seemed unthinkable two or three years ago: the possibility of pedigreed
strike bowler Kagiso Rabada not being able to justify a spot for South Africa
in a major ICC tournament.
scenario, frankly, is inching uncomfortably closer.
long-time jewel in the Proteas’ fast bowling crown - especially since ageing Dale
Steyn significantly scaled down his format availability - continues to find
Twenty20 international cricket a surprisingly “difficult” environment.
So much so,
that his presence in the squad to travel in some eight months’ time to
Australia for the latest T20 World Cup isn’t looking nearly as assured,
considering recent statistical returns, as most observers would expect.
the only source of concern, in fairness to him: several squad-mates, including
some with substantial experience, are skating on thin ice as selection only looks
increasingly more complex for the wrong reasons in the gradual lead-up to the
But the fact
that prized international asset “KG” is labouring so much must be considered of
particular angst to the brains trust, after successive 2-1 home series reverses
in the format ... to England (though he wasn’t involved) and now Australia as
Now 24, so in
a period where he should only be building up toward his prime, Rabada has been
finding standout success strangely hard to come by in all three landscapes for
some time, after those quite thunderous strides in his earliest period for the
example, he had a moderate 50-overs World Cup (his last exposure to the ODI
arena) in the UK last year, taking 11 wickets in nine appearances (though only
eight bowling opportunities) at 36.09, his average being inferior to five
compatriots in the SA attack: an unusual occurrence for a player with such
superlative prior standards.
surprisingly, he has also gone 27 innings in Test cricket without registering a
But it is in
T20s where Rabada has been taking special stick ... a hallmark prevalent, really,
since around this time four years ago.
reveal that the now 24-capped paceman, in his first dozen bowling showings before
early March 2016, only “travelled” at more than nine runs to the over twice in the
period (beginning with debut against Australia at Adelaide in November 2014).
But in the
most recent 12 bowling outings for South Africa - starting against the same
Aussies at Newlands on March 9, 2016 - Rabada has contrastingly gone nine-plus,
in run concession terms, on a worrying nine occasions.
includes some decidedly unflattering returns in the just completed series
against the Australians: 3-0-45-0 in Johannesburg, a much-improved 4-0-27-1 in
Port Elizabeth, but then another pasting (4-0-42-1) at Newlands on Wednesday.
at a damagingly high combined rate of 10.36, Rabada sported the worst economy
of all eight Proteas bowlers employed at various stages in the series (Tabraiz
Shamsi was premier performer on that front, at 6:08).
remember, was intended to hit the combat against the old southern foe a
rejuvenated figure after a welcome, deserved break from the demands of
top-flight cricket following completion of the Test series against England
(where he missed the key final clash through suspension anyway).
pace levels on return have generally been encouraging, the Highveld-born favourite
has very much been part of a pattern of inconsistency in lines and lengths by
the SA seamers over the course of the last few days.
suffered the expensive indignity on Wednesday of bowling Steve Smith with a
beautiful slower delivery, only to have the dismissals over-ruled by discovery
that he had over-stepped, leaving the star batsman with a free hit - Smith got
stuck lustily into Anrich Nortje’s closing over very shortly afterwards.
not to take Rabada to the T20 World Cup would hardly be taken lightly; he
really should be too good a figure to leave out.
But we are awkwardly
approaching the need for earnest debate by the selectors along those lines ...
last 12 bowling analyses in T20 internationals (from most recent):
(Australia, Cape Town)
(Australia, Port Elizabeth)
(Sri Lanka, Cape Town)
(Sri Lanka, Colombo)
(West Indies, Nagpur)
(Australia, Cape Town)
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing