Cape Town – How
about a cheeky little wager?
By the time
South Africa, beginning very soon, have played their next 11 Test matches up to
the start of next summer, Kagiso Rabada will have a maiden Test half-century – or
at least that -- to his name.
confident tip over his burgeoning ability with the blade, even if his primary
trade is always likely to remain his highly-valued fast bowling.
that goal – and it’s unlikely he doesn’t harbour it personally – Rabada has a
once-off clash with Zimbabwe from Boxing Day, then three against India, four
against Australia (all at home) and a three-Test series in Sri Lanka (August)
to hit the jackpot at his “second” skill.
colleague Morne Morkel in the Proteas’ Test attack, Rabada bowls right-arm fast
and bats left-handed.
with the greatest of respect to “Haydos” Morkel, is where the similarity may
end … at least because of Rabada’s greater potential, I would submit, to make a
proper nuisance of himself at the international crease.
That is not
to pour excessive scorn on Morkel’s occasional tenacity and crispness of
stroke-play – much more against seamers than spinners, mind – and it is known
that the big fellow prides himself greatly on his “potential” in run-getting
He does have
a Test best of 40 and 902 runs to his credit in Test cricket, and an average of
12.35 (there have been many, many worse stats than that at the back end of
Morkel has spent most of his very decent, now advanced Test career as a strike
bowler bringing up the very rear on the batting front – most of his innings
(25) come from that berth – Rabada is already more familiar with duty at No 9
By the end
of his career, which should be a long time away as he is still only 22, my own
forecast is that he will have graduated into a reliable No 8, unless South
African bowling line-ups over the next decade and more are unusually loaded
with other characters adept with the willow.
Put it this
way: of the present Proteas Test tail-enders, Rabada arguably boasts the best
potential to develop his batting to a significant degree.
He did not
get the chance to feast at all on the popgun Bangladeshi attack a few weeks
ago, simply not being required to bat across the lopsided two-Test home series.
Which was a
pity, really, considering how much his batting had blossomed in all of his
prior four Test matches, and against significantly better opposition.
there was the odd failure in the period too, the surprisingly easy-on-the-eye
Rabada, who plays some shots with enormous grace and balance, contributed at
least one useful knock in weight-of-runs terms in each of those matches.
began with a career best 34 against New Zealand at Hamilton (from No 10), then
there was 27 as a No 7 night-watchman against England (Lord’s), a 30 at The
Oval (No 9) and 23 at Old Trafford (also No 9).
one of the places where technique is often best tested – and in many instances
found out – among batsmen, so for Rabada to show such dogged lower-order
resistance in those climes was a feather in his cap even if some people weren’t
aware previously of his natural ability at the crease.
He drives off
the front foot with authority and near-perfect timing on a good day, and isn’t
bad either at working the ball off his toes or hips, square or behind square on
the leg side.
other tail-enders, he has plenty to learn when it comes to facing up to the
wiliest of Test spinners, but Rabada also seems a willing student with the bat
so his competence against slow bowling should only improve progressively as
through harsh, regular exposure to the best attacks in the world, it is not
that uncommon for certain international tail-end “bunnies” – and Rabada doesn’t
look one of those, from a technique perspective – to slowly become more
proficient or at least more resilient.
may well eventually eclipse him statistically as a batsman, Rabada can take a
cue from Dale Steyn as an example of a highly-touted shock bowler capable of
suddenly leaving his specialist comfort zone to turn a Test match emphatically at
his other trade.
case, of course, is when the Phalaborwa Express crucially demoralised the
Australian bowlers in a series-deciding Test match at the Melbourne Cricket
Ground in 2008/09, scoring (a still career-best) 76 in a massive ninth-wicket
alliance of 180 with JP Duminy.
prediction: Rabada, one day, will do something not dissimilar.
For all the
naivety that remains in certain areas of his batting makeup, his just looks too
accomplished at times not to, and it would be silly of the Proteas not to keep
encouraging him to grow in that area.
current Test batting average of 14.38 after 27 innings will rise.
another bet, if you like.
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writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing