Kagiso Rabada is a special cricketer. We’ve known this for a while, and he reminded us once again during the second Test against Australia when he took 11 wickets.
Throughout the game in Port Elizabeth, the SuperSport commentators marvelled at the numbers he’s already produced at this stage in his career. His strike rate compared to bowlers who have taken 120 or more wickets is better than anyone you can think of. Waqar Younis, Glenn McGrath, Curtley Ambrose, Shaun Pollock, you name them – Rabada has a better strike rate than all of them.
He truly is a special cricketer.
After the game at St George’s Park, I saw a tweet that referred to the 22-year-old Rabada as a ‘once in a generation’ kind of player. In other sports, that’s the type of praise reserved for the likes of Lionel Messi, Dan Carter and LeBron James. That’s high praise indeed, and it’s scary to think how good he can become as he’s still quite young, and should get a lot better over the next couple of years.
There’s no doubt that we’re witnessing the early stages of someone who could go on to become one of the greatest the game has ever produced.
But, for all his ability, Rabada has acted like a child at times. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with showing a bit of emotion after picking up a wicket – it shows what representing South Africa at the highest possible level means. But, when you’ve been warned time and time again that you need to tone down on your behaviour, you heed that warning.
A look at Rabada’s rap sheet will tell you he’s been sanctioned three times – twice this year – for a send-off offence. He missed the second Test against England last year after swearing at Ben Stokes at Lord’s. And then there was his incident with Shikhar Dhawan at St George’s Park last month. A lesson should have been learnt somewhere.
After those two incidents, someone should have sat him down and reminded him of what was at stake. Rabada, possibly the best bowler of his generation and the best bowler in the Proteas’ arsenal, will not be available for the remainder of the series, which could have an impact on the result.
Not only will cricket fans who attend the remaining Test matches at Newlands and the Wanderers be robbed of the chance to watch one of the best bowlers in the world, but Faf du Plessis will go into a match without his best bowler. If the captain and the rest of the Proteas are not upset with him, they should be.
Let’s hope that Rabada has learnt a few lessons from this recent episode, and improve his behaviour in the future. That’s not to say he can’t show emotion. He can absolutely show emotion when celebrating wickets. But he should not do so in a manner that can be seen as trying to provoke opponents.
If he’s going to be regarded as one of the best the game has ever produced, then it’s time he does a lot of growing up and starts accepting the responsibility that comes with playing international sport.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images