Kagiso Rabada made his Test debut in November 2015 in India. Since then, the South African fast bowler has barely put a foot wrong with ball in hand.
The pacer is now 22 and after nearly two years in Test cricket, it’s the perfect time to assess his career. And judging by his 10-wicket haul against a hapless Bangladesh side in the second Test at Bloemfontein, it looks like Rabada is exactly where he should be.
Whenever an exciting young talent bursts onto the scene, one should wait for two seasons before considering the player as a long-term prospect.
Many things can happen in that period. A bowler can lose his shape after a promising start, can be overburdened by an eager team and pick up an injury or ultimately be worked out by opposition batsmen. It has happened before.
Sri Lankan mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis comes first to mind. 2008 was his year as he dismantled India in three Tests, picking up 26 wickets with his stupefying carom balls and wrong’uns. The very next year, his average shot up from under 19 to above 45.
He last played Tests in 2014, when he averaged over 40 in just two matches and has since faded from view as batsmen have solved any remaining mysteries regarding his bowling.
The next on that list is England seamer Steven Finn. Yes, he is still very much in the mix but is not the first-choice bowler he seemed destined to become when he started Tests in 2010.
His high-arm action and abundant pace provided him 46 wickets from 11 Tests at an average of 26 in 2010. Since then, a combination of indifferent form and fitness issues saw Finn in and out of the team.
Last year, the 28-year-old featured in nine Tests but his returns were far from impressive – 17 wickets at an average of more than 46.
Rabada seems to have negotiated the tricky first two years in the longest format spectacularly.
Last year, he picked up 46 wickets from nine matches at an average of 23.34 and this year, he is the highest wicket-taker in the longest format with 54 scalps from 10 matches at 20.96.
And he isn’t a one-format bowler either. Rabada’s played 15 ODIs in 2017, which makes for a substantial workload for a young man asked to lead the attack due to the change in fortunes of veteran quicks Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
Rabada became the youngest South African to 100 Test wickets and if he maintains his fitness and the team manages his workload judiciously, many records will surely fall along the way.
With India touring South Africa in the beginning of next year, Rabada will hope to set the record straight against the one team against whom he doesn’t have a good record – two wickets in three Tests in India.
The Proteas will surely look to give their pace spearhead as much help as they can to rattle the top-ranked Test side. And if he does so, Rabada can claim to be the best bowler in the world.
WILL YASIR SHAH BREAK?
Pakistan leggie Yasir Shah has bowled the most number of overs in Test cricket in the last three years. In 28 Tests, Shah’s workload has been 1541.1 overs which turns out to a remarkable average of more than 28 overs per innings.
The next in the list is Aussie offspinner Nathan Lyon (1502.5 overs in 36 Tests) and India’s Ravi Ashwin (1497.2 overs from 31 Tests).
As if the rigours of being the only specialist spinner in the Pakistan team weren’t enough, Shah has to now tackle the new fitness parameters that every Pakistan international player has to meet.
The leg-spinner passed a late fitness test before being made available for the current Sri Lanka series. Since the 31-year-old is a Test match specialist, failing the fitness test would have been catastrophic not only for him but the team as well.
Shah is now pushing his body more than ever to churn out the overs as Pakistan move to a three pacer/one spinner strategy and the team management puts in stricter standards for fitness.
If Shah thought bowling all those overs in the last three years were difficult, it will only get tougher as he is expected to raise his fitness and workload substantially after 31 years of age.
Hats off to him for enduring all this with a smile on his face.
Australia opening batsman Aaron Finch has had a stellar time individually in his side’s ongoing tour of India despite the results going against the visitors so far.
The Victoria batsman scored 42 runs, the highest by an Aussie in the match, during his side’s nine-wicket loss to India in the rain-curtailed first T20I between the two sides at Ranchi on Saturday.
The 30-year-old however was not happy about the mixed implementations of ICC’s new rules and regulations for T20Is in the defeat at Ranchi. It seemed that Finch had not been made aware that the Decision Review System (DRS) was in place during the match in keeping with the new ICC changes.
“I didn’t know there was a review system until about the fifth over. Nobody did,” Finch told ESPNCricinfo.
“Steve Smith, when he ran out a drink, mentioned it. So, we had to ask the umpires. But it is quite strange to have a crossover of rules for this series. I mean bat sizes and things like that are coming in at the end of the series,” he clarified.
Previously there are had been provisions for DRS in T20Is and the new rule changes grant one review to each team in a match.
The new regulations also state that in case of a game being reduced to under 10 overs, the fielding side will be allowed to have two of its bowlers throw down two overs each. Hence, Australia should have been allowed the luxury of having two of its bowlers throw down two overs in the six-over chase for India.
Ultimately, only pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile was allotted two overs during Saturday, a point which has further irked Finch.
Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan empathised with his Australian counterpart on the gaffe but said the rules which are in place cannot be ignored.
“I’m sure they (Australia) would have felt the inconsistency,” Dhawan said. “But whatever is the rule, is the rule. I’m not exactly aware of the rule you were talking about. But, it is what it is,” he added.
Pakistan’s efforts to organise the final T20I against Sri Lanka at the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore has hit a roadblock after reports emerged that the Lions are reluctant to make the trip to Pakistan.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had agreed a deal in principal with Cricket Sri Lanka (SLC) to stage the final T20I in Lahore as opposed to the UAE where the two sides are currently battling it out in the Test series.
However, according to reports, the islanders will take a final call on the matter after the visit of an independent security expert to assess the situation in Pakistan later this week.
PCB chief Najam Sethi had hoped that the successful visit of the ICC World XI in September would open the doors for more international sides to tour the country.
Reports that Sri Lankan players want to help Pakistan at this moment but most of them are not in favour of playing a T20I in Lahore #Cricket
— Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassion) October 8, 2017
It is believed that several of the Sri Lankan players want to help Pakistan in its quest to bring back international cricket but will wait for approval from the independent security committee before making up their decision.
“We will be meeting ICC officials this week and will get their views on the current security situation in Pakistan. If they provide a positive feedback, we will send a representative to assess the situation again before making a final decision,” SLC CEO Ashley de Silva told the Sunday Times.
Meanwhile Pakistan’s selection committee head Inzamam-ul-Haq remains positive that the proposed match at Lahore will go ahead.
The former Pakistan skipper lamented the fact that the country has to play its home matches in a neutral venue and hopes for an improvement within the next two years.
“It is very sad that we have to play our home games in neutral venues. It is damaging our cricket as our players don’t get the chance to play in our conditions, in front of our fans. It is very sad for Pakistan,” Inzamam told Cricbuzz.
“It is very tough on the players and we have suffered a lot. Hopefully things will get better in another two years’ time,” he added.
“I would like to thank the Sri Lankan board for agreeing to play the game. Apart from that last tour, whenever the Sri Lankans have come to Pakistan they have liked the country and done well. Similarly the Pakistani people also love the Sri Lankan team.
“Once the Sri Lankan team comes, hopefully in the next two or three years things will improve and Pakistan will regularly host matches,” the Pakistan great added.
The two sides will play a five-match ODI series in the UAE after the conclusion of the Tests with the third T20I at Lahore earmarked for October 29 in Lahore.