India tour a learning curve but need to act on it next time: Rabada

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06 Dec 2019 | 10:11 AM
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Ashish Pant

India tour a learning curve but need to act on it next time: Rabada

The South African speedster opens up on about his form, the India tour and the challenges lying ahead in the coming year

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As far as fast bowling goes in the current era, the name Kagiso Rabada will invariably be in the top three of any list irrespective of the format. A genuine speedster who can hit speeds in excess of 145kph consistently, Rabada, in a very short span of time has carved his name in the upper echelons of fast bowlers.

Rabada first gained conscience in people's minds during the 2014 Under-19 World Cup where he returned as the second-highest wicket-taker of the tournament. Within a year, he had broken through the senior South African squad in all three formats and has since been a regular feature for his country. By the time Rabada turned 21, he had already established himself as the leader of the pack and one of the most promising talents to emerge out of South Africa in recent times.

Ranked No.2 in Test and No.4 in ODI rankings, Rabada is as good as they get. He has 183 wickets in 40 Tests averaging 22.50 while in ODIs he has returned 117 wickets in 75 matches at an average of 27.34. His numbers in T20Is also read a respectable 28 wickets in 21 outings at 23.14.  However, 2019 has not been kind to the 24-year-old. This has been his worst year in terms of strike-rate or average in Tests or ODIs since the 2015 season and that in a lot of ways has affected South Africa's overall performance as well.

"I have just been a bit of out of form and just working my way through it," Rabada tells cricket.com in a freewheeling chat.

There is no denying that having been thrust into a senior role at such a young age, there is bound to be pressure. The extra responsibility can have its toll and while Rabada agrees that there is pressure when playing at the highest level, it is not bad pressure but good pressure, something that he looks forward to.

"I have got a responsibility for the team in and amongst the team to lead and pick up wickets," says Rabada. "I know that's my job to do my best to restrict teams and also for us to do it as a bowling attack.

"It is not a bad pressure, it is good pressure. You are just out there to do a job at the end of the day, out there to challenge yourself so it is not a pressure that is deafening or pressure that is going to give you a nervous breakdown.

"I think it is just a challenge rather."

The South African team as a whole has not been in the best of form this year. They failed to qualify for the semifinals of the 2019 World Cup finishing seventh on the table and then had a forgettable outing in India where they although tied the T20I series 1-1, were blown away in the Tests 3-0.

Rabada himself had a pretty lean time of it during the Test series returning just seven wickets in three outings at 40.71. While the retirement of the likes of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn (from Tests) has most certainly hurt South Africa, Rabada is confident that the new guys coming into the side will do the job in the near future.

"We are going through a transition phase right now and I think it (India series) was a huge learning curve for us," Rabada said of his experience in India. "But it is pointless saying it was a learning curve. Next time we go there, we need to act on what we have learned."

With the T20 World Cup less than a year away, teams have now started focussing on the shortest format of the game. South Africa have been good in T20Is this year having won five of their eight encounters and will be hoping to clinch their maiden T20 title come October 2020.

On the challenges faced by him when switching to the T20 format, Rabada said that the shortest format of the game required a lot more quick thinking and basically more of "thinking on the spot".

"There is a difference, certainly," said Rabada on switching from one-day mode to T20 mode. "It requires a lot of quick thinking, requires a few more different balls and also requires different field placings.

"Just figuring out what balls work on certain grounds or certain pitches. Especially in T20 cricket, thinking on the spot, having to execute is important."

Rabada is currently part of Jozi Stars at Mzansi Super League, South Africa's T20 franchise tournament. While the league is only in its second season, Rabada is confident it has the potential to become one of the best in the world.

"The standard of cricket is very good (at MSL)," insisted Rabada. "IPL, obviously because of the economic situation, will attract the best players in th world. Right now, we have the Protea players which amongst us are the best players in the world.

"That does help. I think we are quite far from the IPL but we are challenging the Big Bash League. "

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