Abbott exit endangers Rabada’s load

2017-01-06 12:21
Kagiso Rabada (Getty)

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 Kyle Abbott.

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 few months.

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 gallop.

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 Maharaj.

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 category.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  kagiso rabada  |  cricket

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