Cricket Watch

Player fast tracking put to the test

Kagiso Rabada, rising international star?
Kagiso Rabada.jpg

The emergence of Kagiso Rabada will provide critics and cricket students with an opportunity to engage in a lively debate about fast tracking a 19-year old to senior international stardom.

Last week, Rabada was selected in the South African squad for the three T20 Internationals against Australia starting in Adelaide on the 5th November.

JP Duminy was picked as captain to replace Faf du Plessis, who is given some opportunity to recuperate following a very tough schedule the past twelve months.

Rabada was superb in spearheading the South African under 19-team to their maiden International Cricket Council u.19 Cricket World Cup title this year.
He captured six for 25 in the semi-final against Australia and bowled with pace and skill. He unsettled the Australians with well-directed bouncers and had the top-order in disarray early on.

During the second Sunfoil Series-match the this season of bizhub Highveld Lions against the Chevrolet Knights, he was instrumental in causing a late-order collapse as the Knights slipped from 186 for four to 267. Rabada finished with four for 57 and bowled with pace.

But there was more. He definitely possesses the variation and the ability to bamboozle good batsmen with the occasional in-swinger.

Some critics have questioned the decision to select him for the SA senior team. They have argued that they would not want to see Rabada follow in the footsteps of Victor Mpitsang, who played in only two One Day Internationals for South Africa in 1999 and was never used selected for the national team again.

“Don’t throw Kagiso for the wolves,” is the outcry by some media scribes.

It is a point that should be considered. Rabada has only played in 15 first class games, of which were List A-matches. But the maxim that “if you are good enough, you are old enough to represent the country” is also true.

Graeme Pollock was 19 years of age when he debuted for South Africa; Allan Donald was 19 when he first played for Free State, and went on to become one of South Africa’s finest bowlers yet; and Makhaya Ntini was 21 when he went on his first South African tour in 1998, to the United Kingdom.

Although Ntini did not have express pace or a classical bowling style, he was arguably one of South Africa’s fittest athletes yet. He also had an indomitable spirit. Cricinfo spoke about his unfailingly ebullient character, which buoyed him with hope and aggression long after bowlers of lesser body and mind had conceded defeat.

If Rabada could emulate the Ntini-spirit, he can also, like Ntini, go on to capture 390 international test wickets.

Is it too early for Rabada to make his international debut?

It is certainly too soon to worry, because Rabada might not become a victim if he is smashed for 40 runs in four overs. Dale Steyn also suffered early in his career in Australia and was replaced by Johan van der Wath in a One Day International as he was too expensive, but he returned to become a world-class bowler.

Contenders for WC-spots

Rabada won’t be in the Cricket World Cup frame right now, but there are a few players in the T20-group against Australia that can knock down the selectors’ door with sparking performances. One is Marchant de Lange.

South Africa has not delivered convincing performances in the death-bowling department the last couple of years. Recently, Mitchell Marsh brutally exposed South Africa’s frailties in the final ten overs by hitting three consecutive sixes off Dale Steyn and also striking two sixes in an over bowled by Ryan McLaren.

De Lange is a man capable of using the Yorker consistently to limit batsmen. He is also temperamentally suited to bowling at the proverbial death. He has that cool head to restrict batsmen.

Charl Langeveldt, 39-year old former South African swing bowler, recently said South African fast bowlers don’t lack the skills and qualities to operate successfully in the final few overs, but they might just struggle to keep a cool head and tend to be slightly one-dimensional. With the square boundaries as long as it will be in Australia, two shorter deliveries in the death overs and three Yorkers might be the right way to go.

De Lange could deliver those lethal bouncers and the Yorkers to undermine the batsmen. Yet, if he suffers in the T20-Internationals against Australia, the selectors won’t reconsider the fast-bowling department for the Cricket World Cup and would basically give the current fifteen-man squad that forms part of the One Day International team going to Australia, the nod.

David Wiese also has a slight chance to force himself into contention. He is a hard-hitting batsman capable of batting at number seven and dominating many bowling attacks. His swing bowling has come a long way after he decided a year ago to remodel his action. He has added a yard of pace to his bowling.

If McLaren, Vernon Philander or Wayne Parnell don’t perform at number seven soon, and Wiese makes a strong impression against Australia in the T20-Internationals, the big all-rounder might just be the surprise selection in the Cricket World Cup squad.

by Fanie Heyns

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