Kagiso Rabada must continue to spearhead the Proteas’ ambitions of becoming a leading force in Test cricket once again, writes ANDRE HUISAMEN.
On Thursday, Rabada became only the eighth South African cricketer to take 200 Test wickets as the Proteas went on to dismiss Pakistan for 378 in Karachi.
The revelation of Rabada as one of the best bowlers in the world has been in the spotlight for a number of years now.
But, the future of this bright talent is what is most important now. And, the best is surely still to come for Rabada.
The 25-year-old has been battling with a heavy workload and small niggles in recent times. He has, however, looked rejuvenated since the first Test against Pakistan got under way on Tuesday.
He has bowled with intent since day one and the fire appears to be back in his approach.
Rabada’s importance to the Proteas, in all formats, doesn’t need any introduction. Since he came on the scene back in 2015, he’s been knocking on the door of greatness.
It is also no real surprise that the statistics that surfaced since he reached the milestone on Thursday, all suggest that he could reach an elite level of fast bowlers.
Not only is he the fourth-youngest player ever to reach the 200 mark, but he is also the third fastest of all time in terms of balls bowled.
Only Waqar Younis and Dale Steyn have bowled less deliveries to get to the milestone, while he is second on the list for bowling strike rates this century with a minimum of 100 wickets.
All these stats are rich reward for the effort and work ethic Rabada has shown since his first Test match in India.
But it’s hard to imagine a successful future for South African cricket, especially in the longer format, without him leading the way.
At this rate, Rabada is well on his way to become the country’s all-time leading wicket-taker. His player welfare, though, will have to become a top priority.
Rabada has complained in the recent past of becoming battle weary due to a heavy work load in all formats. In the 2019 season no fast bowler in Test cricket bowled more than him.
That can’t be the case going forward and the involvement of management and coaches will be instrumental in getting the best out of him for as long as possible.
Cricketers like Rabada don’t come along very often and his well-being as a player will need to be the main focus for the years to come.
The Proteas can’t reach new heights without him functioning optimally and, to become one of the best teams in the world again, they will need him to be fresh and firing.