Johannesburg – There is “something special” about Kagiso Rabada, the 20-year-old paceman included in all three Proteas squads for the Bangladesh tour in a few weeks, says national coach Russell Domingo.
But proper management of his development – which could include some influence as an all-rounder -- will be essential to ensuring he becomes a staple element of South Africa’s broad plans in the near future.
Speaking to Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing here this week, Domingo, who has just been granted a two-year extension to his tenure, also discussed the merits of other new Proteas faces like Reeza Hendricks in the Test squad and Eddie Leie in the T20 group.
But he hopes the cream of his established one-day international batsmen, in particular, will persevere to the next World Cup in England in 2019, even if it may be out of reach to one or two hard-pressed bowlers.
Here is the final instalment of the Q ‘n A:
Is the big emphasis on Tests in the coming months a good way to dismantle thoughts of the World Cup?
It is exciting to have two four-Test series (India away, England home) looming. We haven’t had ones of that duration for a good couple of years, although you cannot discredit the two in Bangladesh beforehand; those could be really tough as well. But 10 Tests in a six-month period is certainly very pleasing for us. It will be nice to get back into red-ball cricket after a lot of one-day stuff.
Four Tests in India also means SA’s longest yet series there: do you see that as a mixed blessing?
It’s a blessing for the coffers, I guess! Some of the players may be thinking ‘phew, several weeks in India (again) after an IPL ... it’ll be pretty hard’. I’ve never been to India before as a coach so I am really looking forward to it personally. They will always be a great side at home ... just look at how Australia lost there, 4-0 two years ago. But they were also very competitive when we last played them in South Africa: we won that short series 1-0 after nearly chasing down 440 or whatever it was in the first clash. It’s going to be a challenging series ... but that’s why we play this game.
The Proteas are fairly entrenched at No 1 in Tests. Are you confident the country has the tools to stay there?
Hashim (Amla) and I have been saying for the last couple of months that there will be a little bit of tinkering with the Test side; we need to find the right combination to be sustainable at the top for a period of time. When you lose players like Kallis, Alviro (Petersen), Smith ... it’s difficult to replace that quality of batting overnight. There might be a series or two where certain things are tried, and then others given a go, until we find what we (desire). We are not as settled a team as we perhaps were a year ago. There’s got to be a new opening batsman, and AB de Villiers will not be there for the Bangladesh series so there will also need to be a new middle-order player – those are the sort of challenges we’re facing in the next couple of months. AB’s played 98 (Tests) in a row! But at the same time it offers others a chance to stake claims, and to develop experience in Subcontinent conditions. There’s got to be life one day after De Villiers, Amla, Steyn, Morkel ... these opportunities will only benefit South Africa in the years to come.
Dean Elgar is now your most senior Test opener, and Stiaan van Zyl has been slowly remodelled into one, but there is another specialist in the mix for Bangladesh with the selection of Reeza Hendricks. Will you resolve that dilemma after checking the lie of the land there?
We’ll probably get there and make a decision closer to the time. We have those options. Stiaan has opened for the Cobras in the second half of the Sunfoil Series and also for the SA ‘A’ side. Reeza is the more recognised opener, and has played with Dean up top. He also scores quickly and getting runs in the early overs will be important in the conditions there; it’s the best time to score. So we need to think a bit more about it. Also to be decided is whether to play one spinner or two; if you go two then you may have to limit yourselves to six batters, with Vernon (Philander) taking charge of seven. Those are all things to mull over in Bangladesh, after the limited-overs games have happened – that helps us, quite a bit.
Is it true to say T20 will eclipse ODIs in priority terms this season, given the ICC World T20 at the end of it in India?
A lot of emphasis will be placed on the T20s; that’s why a guy like AB will be playing in most of the T20s going forward, while we will give a few of the fast bowlers a break at first. Any ICC event is a big thing for us, so there will be plenty of focus. Having plenty of T20s in Bangladesh and India will be a good bonus for us, thinking ahead to where the tournament is staged.
New squad member Eddie Leie seems an interesting glimpse of our T20 future on the spin front ...
Yes, he’s done well at domestic level in both four-day and limited-overs cricket. We know what we get with Imran (Tahir); he’s still very much our No 1 T20 bowler but it just gives us the option to look at someone new: we might even think of fielding two leg-spinners, especially in those conditions. We want to see what Eddie is about; what he can offer us.
Some of the older players seemed downbeat after the latest World Cup about making it to the 2019 follow-up in England. But would you generally want these wise heads to stay in the frame, especially given the unique demands of playing in that country?
Look, four years is a long time in international cricket and so much can happen in the interim. I’d hate to be thinking about the next World Cup yet: there are so many important series and events leading up to it – even a Champions Trophy in England in 2017, for which guys like Dale and Morne should be very much in the mix. You can sort of reassess after that, I think. A lot of our 50-overs focus will be geared to that, before any new World Cup concerns. You can’t be too obsessed with the long term. It’s easier to think about some of our batsmen, perhaps, making it through to 2019. Faf and AB will be 34, they should be OK, JP will be 35, Rilee will by 29 and David Miller 30. So they’ll all be fine. It’s more difficult predicting bowlers’ (longevity), of course.
Kagiso Rabada seems very much the next intended cab off the fast bowling rank. Is he genuinely someone worth investing in?
Managing him is going to be very important. It’s a fine line between playing ‘KG’ in every format, and exposing him in every format. You don’t want to over-bowl him, or play him too much in tough conditions that don’t suit him. Look, he’s a diamond ... there is something special about him, and his performances in franchise cricket show that. Getting 14 wickets in a game (for the Lions against the Dolphins at the Wanderers last season – Sport24) is special. We want to invest in him, give him every opportunity to develop. He’s got something, as a cricketer and as a person ... very mature, solid guy. He can bat, too, so I’d like to see him progress up the order a bit in domestic cricket. There’s a shortage of all-rounders in our cricket at present and we need to unearth the next Kallis, Klusener or Pollock. He gets really good shape on the ball, so if you are wanting to get the best out of him it would be in places like Australia, England. It will be interesting to see how he goes on the Subcontinent; I don’t think he has much experience of it. He’s got pace, and is a great athlete ... all the attributes to be a successful fast bowler. But the managing and nurturing is very important.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing