With just 24 Test caps to his name, Kagiso Rabada has already achieved “what I always wanted”, in becoming Test cricket’s top-ranked bowler, but he has promised there is much more to come. Rabada leapfrogged James Anderson to No.1 after the first Test between South Africa and India, in which he took five wickets and was part of a famous win.
“It’s what I always wanted to do (reaching No.1). Now, I just want to keep performing and winning games for the team and to keep getting better and better,” Rabada said. “There’s always something you can improve on. Once you get something right, there’s always something new that you can work on.
“I just need to just do more and more, striving for perfection. You are never going to reach perfection but at least [try to] get there and thereabouts.”
At the start of the summer, in an in-depth interview with ESPNcricinfo which will be published later this month, Rabada explained how he is focusing on up-skilling himself by adding more variation to his repertoire, which already includes a searing yorker, a mean bouncer and plenty of pace. In the Newlands Test against India, Rabada was consistently South Africa’s quickest bowler, delivering balls in the mid-140s throughout but he said speed wasn’t everything when it came to fast-bowling.
“I don’t know how fast I can get but I always try my best. I can feel when I am bowling quickly and when I am not. Sometimes I feel I am bowling quickly and the speed gun says 145 or sometimes I can feel like I bowl a decent ball and the speed gun says 131,” he said. “I feel like the pace is something that’s already there, what’s important is the skill.”
Versatility is particularly important because Rabada is now being used later in the innings. At Newlands, he bowled second change and often with a slightly older ball, which also required him to have a balanced approach between attack and defense.
Though Rabada would like to take the new ball, he understands that South Africa’s plentiful resources may not always allow him to. “I just bowl wherever the team wants me to bowl. I would like to open. It’s a bit tough at the moment because there’s two very good bowlers in those roles,” he said. “I just like to bowl wherever the team requires me to and set my own aspirations aside. I am really happy with the roles I have been given, just to try and get wickets and defend at the same time, that’s important.”
South Africa went into the Cape Town Test with four frontline quicks and will likely keep the same structure to their side for the rest of the series. Rabada may find himself promoted, but perhaps only as far as first change, because another bowler will have to come in for Dale Steyn, who has been ruled out of the series with a heel injury. One of Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Lungi Ngidi or Duanne Olivier, all of whom have significantly less experience than Rabada, is set to earn a spot in the starting XI, so it will be up to Rabada, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel to take on some extra responsibility as the series moves upcountry. Rabada, for one, is ready.
“Unfortunately Dale is out of the attack now. It would have been an extra bonus over the summer but I am glad that I have bowled with him and I will hopefully bowl with him again in the future,” Rabada said. “Our bowling attack is very skilled as you’ve seen in the past and in the last game. It feels great to be playing alongside these veterans.”