England in SA

Best of Rabada central to Proteas revolution

2019-12-30 16:36
Kagiso Rabada (Gallo Images)
Kagiso Rabada (Gallo Images)

Centurion - As the new-look Proteas look to recover from what was a woeful 2019, there is a collective acceptance that 24-year-old speedster Kagiso Rabada will be key to the revolution. 

With Vernon Philander having announced his retirement from Test cricket at the end of the ongoing England series and with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel no longer in the mix, Rabada has emerged as the spearhead of the South African attack in all formats. 

Respected as one of the most dangerous quick bowlers in the world, Rabada has already notched up 137 caps and 335 wickets in international cricket and he has been one of South Africa's most valuable assets ever since he burst onto the scene back in 2015. 

That level of expectation has come with a lot of pressure, but Rabada has always been prepared and able to take on the added responsibility. 

2019, though, provided its own set of challenges and Rabada appeared flat at the World Cup in England amidst concerns over his workload heading into the competition. 

It has been a year in which Rabada has, perhaps for the first time, struggled for consistency in delivering excellence despite enjoying a close relationship with previous Proteas coach and former England bowling guru Ottis Gibson, who invested countless hours into improving his South African fast bowling stocks. 

While the talent has never once been in question, getting the devastating best out of Rabada was a challenge that Gibson and the Proteas of 2019 didn't always overcome.

Even in the recently-completed first Test against England at Centurion, which the Proteas won comfortably by 107 runs, it didn't always look like Rabada was going to impact the game in the way he would have liked. 

While he was trying to be as attacking as possible, Rabada leaked runs throughout the match. 

His 3/68 (15) in the first innings and 4/103 (23) in the second made him comfortably South Africa's most expensive bowler of the Test. 

That he still picked up match figures of 7/171 despite not being at his best for most of the Test shows exactly why Rabada is rated so highly-rated, but the most encouraging news for South Africa was that he did reach his lofty heights of expectation and ability on the fourth and final day. 

Rabada, with his speeds up, had the English dancing around uncomfortably and his spell with the second new ball was particularly striking. 

While the win is obviously pleasing given the fact that the Proteas had lost their previous five Test matches, Rabada's performance to close out the match on Sunday will be encouraging as anything. 

Keeping Rabada at his consistent best is, arguably, one of coach Mark Boucher's most important duties as he looks to take this side forward. 

"I think it's just about getting him into the game," Boucher said at Centurion on Sunday, reflecting on 'KG's' efforts.

"I think sometimes as an individual you feel under a bit of pressure and you start worrying about your action, where you're putting the ball and if you're performing a role for the team.

"We spoke to KG and we know what he is all about. He is a world class performer.

"Sometimes you've got to just forget about your technique or where you're putting the ball and just get into a fight out there."

The plan, it seems, is to steer Rabada away from overthinking his game from a technical point of view and to get him to rely more on his raw skills and natural ability. 

It won't be an easy task given Rabada's well-documented never-ending search for perfection, but Boucher believes that the more Rabada involves himself in the match situation, the better he will bowl.  

"You probably saw KG get out there and have a couple of words and the goal was to try and get him into the game and then just let his natural instinct take over," said Boucher.

"You saw towards the end there that his paces were up and he was getting the ball in the right area and I think it's probably because he had the a sniff of a win.

"That's when KG is at his best."

The Proteas will now move to Cape Town for the second Test at Newlands, which gets underway on January 3. 

Read more on:    proteas  |  kagiso rabada  |  centurion  |  cricket


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