Few things get cricket-mad nations talking like having a young prodigy come through the ranks. You only have to look back at the clamour that was made when Sachin Tendulkar began playing for India, or the din in England when a fiery redhead called Ben Stokes began to stand up to the Aussies. If you are from one of these nations that are witnessing a prodigious talent arrive on the international scene then you can’t help but get swept up in the euphoria.
That is exactly what happened in South Africa when Kagiso Rabada began to dismiss the world’s best batsmen as a young man. Rabada was already a physical specimen when he got the Proteas call up at just 19 years old when he made his debut against Australia. His raw pace, unrestrained aggression, and love for his country made him an instant favourite with Proteas fans.
The youngster was also coming through at a time where the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel were about to retire. To everyone’s relief in the rainbow nation, South Africa’s conveyor belt of talent had yet again produced a world-class player to replace an influential elder statesman who was bowing out. When Steyn did eventually call time on his test career in 2019 though, there was a sense that South Africa may not be as prepared for his departure as once thought with Kagiso Rabada beginning to blow a bit hot and cold.
That may seem a bit unfair as Rabada still has a better Test strike rate than Steyn who is considered by many to be the best fast bowler to have ever played the game, but such is Rabada’s unrivaled talent that it feels like he is not as effective as he was.
In the case of exceptional young talents that go on to wow the world, like Tendulkar and if we were to break codes for a second and mention Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo as other examples, there is always an unbreakable willingness to be the best there ever was. You need talent, but boy do you need the drive as well. In Rabada’s case, he has the former but seems to be lacking the latter in recent times.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why but the cynic is likely to nod towards the IPL and the riches it has bestowed upon Rabada as the reason. At just 24, Rabada’s future is already secured thanks to some incredibly lucrative contracts earned in the Indian Premier League. There is just a feeling that with more money than he knows what to do with, the fire for the Proteas seems to have gone out.
In Rabada’s defence, it must be said that South Africa have been poor for a little while now so there is a case for saying that he is the victim of being the best player dragged down by an average side. A series loss to England in January did nothing to lift the morale of the national team.
Add that to an embarrassing whitewash in India in 2019 after going out the World Cup in the first round and South Africa’s recent form does make for very sorry reading.
This is why it’s no surprise to see Rabada and his teammates at a woeful 8/1 in cricket betting to win the World Cup in 2023. Indeed, it’s a long way back for this once-great cricket nation but the process of getting to the summit of world cricket once more can be expedited if Rabada takes the bull by the horns.
When all is said and done, there isn’t a better bowler in world cricket and now more than ever, the time is right for this young paceman to begin blowing batting line ups out the water again.
All of this, of course, depends on his application. If Rabada decides to flip that switch and give everything to the national team once more than the Proteas will become a feared team again.