Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, premier Proteas fast bowler KAGISO RABADA talks about South Africa’s tour of Australia, the Mzansi Super League and the impact Ottis Gibson has had since taking charge.
Sport24 asked: Your outlook ahead of the ODI series against Australia?
Kagiso Rabada: I’m expecting the Australians to play some hard cricket during the three-match ODI series and one-off T20I. (Having lost the warm-up against a Prime Minister’s XI, South Africa rival Australia in the first ODI on Sunday in Perth). Whenever you head to Australia, you have to prepare your mind to expect anything and adjust to it accordingly. We must realise what we are here for - to play cricket and assess the on-field threats the Australians pose. It’s not about concentrating on them, but to be aware of what could happen in order to prepare your mind to get around those situations. The last time we played against Australia, we won the Test series and I was voted Man of the Series. (Rabada escaped a two-match ban after an appeal saw it rescinded). I didn’t mean any malicious intent with my shoulder brush on Steve Smith in the infamous Port Elizabeth Test. Everything was heightened around that series with what happened in the first Test match. Sometimes people must remember that we are only human. I’m very passionate and the passion just comes out when I’m on the field, especially when playing against opponents who you know want to dominate you. The Australians are some of the best players in the world and they have the reputation for bullying other players. That brings out more determination and concentration in me. Every game I play, I try to do my best and give it my all. It’s disappointing when you don’t excel and it doesn’t matter in which format. I take my game seriously but, at the same time, I have learned to just enjoy it. You enjoy your cricket when you’re learning and when you overcome certain obstacles.
Sport24 asked: What has Ottis Gibson brought as Proteas head coach?
Kagiso Rabada: Ottis has offered a point of difference, as he comes with his own unique way of seeing things. He is relaxed, very honest and says it like it is. He encourages us to play positive cricket but, at the moment, we are trying to decipher what exactly that means because it can mean different things to different people. We are going through the learning process. By the time we get to the World Cup, hopefully we can all be on the same page because right now, we’re not. Ottis comes with a bold way of playing cricket and speaks a lot of sense. He talks very simply and is not at all complicated. He is quite a practical bowling coach and I can see way England loved him during his time with their national team. I enjoy working with him as he is articulate and keeps it simple. I don’t know how the other players feel but, for me, he has been good for the team. As a West Indian, he is a relaxed character and likes to have a good time. What I enjoy about him is that he knows it’s a game and will take it seriously, but he will say: “In the morning the sun will come up.” To play cricket is not the sole reason we are on this earth. Cricket doesn’t define me. Instead it’s a part of who I am and Ottis has the same outlook. There are times when you feel good and times when you feel bad and the advice I have taken to heart is that you don’t want to be hot and cold. I want to be steady because that is important in life, otherwise you go on a rollercoaster ride where anything can occur.
Sport24 asked: How would you say you have matured as a man off-field?
Kagiso Rabada: The process of growing up is a natural progression. The more you grow up, the more awareness you have got around you. Off the field, I am quite philosophical. I read about different beliefs and history. I think I have matured in that way and already when I left school, I started realising what is out there in the world and I had a strong sense of not wanting to follow the crowd. I have got the Kagiso Rabada Foundation coming up - an NPO to help people. Based around cricket, arts and culture, it will give kids an opportunity whether they are black or white. It is good to do some charity work and give back. It comes with the territory when you grow and mature as a person.
Sport24 asked: Are you keen to take on more responsibility in the team?
Kagiso Rabada: As one of the senior players in terms of caps, it just shows you how young our team is at the moment. (Rabada is 23 and has played 54 ODIs for South Africa). At present, I’m not putting my hand up to say I want to lead or be the captain. That’s not me. All I’m looking at is doing my job, performing well and if anyone who hasn’t played as long as I have wants any advice, I’m genuinely happy to help my teammates. If it’s for the better of the team and the aspiring cricketer, I’m all for it. If the management team feels I could be a captain and the job comes my way at some stage, then I will evaluate it from there. It’s not as if I’m sitting in front of the class and saying: “Pick me, pick me, pick me!” It’s about what’s best for the team rather than the individual... Playing at the 2019 World Cup in the UK is an ambition of mine. I would really love to be there and will do everything I can do make that squad because nothing is certain. I really hope that the team wins, even if I’m not there. Winning the World Cup will be something special for the nation and the South African cricket fraternity. We have at times struggled in the ODIs, but are building and looking forward to the event.
Sport24 asked: Your thoughts on the impending Mzansi Super League?
Kagiso Rabada: I’m really glad the Mzansi Super League, which starts on 16 November, has come to fruition and I’m excited that it’s going to be televised on SABC. It will grow a new set of fans and that can only be good for South African cricket and the global game. I’m very happy to play for the Jozi Stars and be at home. The Wanderers has been my home ground ever since I started playing cricket for the Lions and I have been going there since I was 15. It’s the place where I really love playing, especially when there is a capacity crowd. I’m glad to be with the Jozi Stars, who have made some really good signings (West Indian Chris Gayle is the Johannesburg-based team’s international player). How much the tournament costs to put on is the material side of it, but the value in it is much bigger. With the SABC having been awarded the rights to broadcast the tournament, it means that there will be more viewers, which will increase the competition’s value. More sponsors will come on board and the knock-on effect is that there will be more money. Increased revenue means it’s good for us as cricketers because we don’t have to head overseas anymore and take up Kolpak contracts.
Sport24 asked: Is Test cricket still the Holy Grail or has it lost its lustre?
Kagiso Rabada: Test cricket versus the T20 format is a huge source of debate in the world and not just South Africa. The cricket purists will say Test cricket is the ultimate. When viewing Test matches, most people don’t sit there and concentrate all the time. They observe and then detach. However, the moment people start understanding the five-day game is when they will really like it. My vote is for Test cricket, but I believe T20 cricket is good for the game. It brings awareness to the other formats and grows cricket owing to the interest and sizeable investments. We need money to survive, and I’m of the view that money coupled with passion will entice people to take up the sport.
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