‘Baby’ Rabada set for the big stage

In the seaming conditions of England, bowlers are always put to test. With the Champions Trophy being his first major ICC event, Rabada too will be under pressure. But he has had a good preparation.

Kagiso Rabada with coach Gordon Parsons(right) and Chris Morris.   -  Special Arrangement

There is innocence on his face. At one glimpse, he could well be mistaken as another rookie teenager, lost in his own world. And those thoughts are reaffirmed as the youngster starts watching videos on YouTube. One after the other, he goes on and on, watching different clips.

But then, all of them have something to do with cricket and the cricketers.

In short, that’s Kagiso Rabada for you!

If the South African youngster looks fiery in the seaming conditions and is touted as one of the major finds of international cricket, those who know the 22-year-old feel he is still a ‘baby’ at heart. Coming from a family where cricket has never been the top priority (his father is a reputed doctor), the young gun has slowly but steadily made his presence felt in the international arena, and is raring to go for the Champions Trophy.

In the seaming conditions of England, bowlers are always put to test. And, this being his first major ICC event, Rabada too will be under pressure. But he has had a good preparation.

In the just concluded three-match ODI series against England, the boy from Johannesburg has scalped seven wickets — leaving English batsmen confused. Unable to read his pace, the Englishmen have flattered to deceive.

That’s the suspense Rabada wants to maintain.

Ask his old-time coach and mentor Gordon Parsons, and the seasoned bowling coach agrees that the determination and hard work are the keywords in Rabada’s life. “He has a huge potential of making it big. He has got a magnificent physique and maintains a simple action for which injury is less,” Parsons, who also works as the bowling coach of Highveld Lions, tells Sportstar from Cardiff.

The first time Pasons came across Rabada, he was a youngster with raw talent. “He had pace and could keep it right in the areas. For once, we thought his action is as simple as Dale Steyn or Allan Donald. Most importantly, all he does is dream about cricket.”

“He is a smart and clever young boy, who is crazy about cricket. If he knows that the other person would talk about cricket, Rabada would go on and on, discussing cricket stories with him.” Parson laughs.

Perhaps, that’s the reason even the West Indies legend Michael Holding was all praise for the Proteas pacer. A few months back, Rabada chance-met Holding and the two had supper. Throughout the meeting, Rabada would only speak about cricket. “That makes him special. He must be just 22, but he is already a phenomenon in South African cricket. He is a match-winner,” Parsons, who also happens to be the brother-in-law of former South Africa skipper late Hansie Cronje, adds.

Parson also believes that Rabada is to AB de Villiers what Donald was to Cronje — the trusted bowler. “The advantage with Rabada is, he is easy to explain to. While working with him, I tweaked the action a bit and that actually made him more effective,” he says.

After the first ODI in Leeds — where Rabada could only pick one wicket, conceding 63 runs — Parsons spoke to his old ward about how to get over the disappointing phase. “He has the ability to swing the ball and that is something the team (South Africa) will be looking forward to. We spoke about a few things and those were just a few quick tips,” Parsons says.

The next two games, however, saw Rabada bouncing back, claiming a total of six wickets. “South Africa will depend on him a lot. With Dale out of the tournament, the focus will be on Rabada and Morne (Morkel). The English seaming conditions will definitely help him,” he says, adding, “Running the ball quick in English wickets will be a major thing.”

In the Indian Premier League (IPL), Rabada was picked by Delhi Daredevils, where he had a decent season. But Parsons says that Rabada is not someone who likes to emulate any particular player. “His major plus point is that he takes everything from seniors, but executes them in his own way. He is a cute little cricket sponge,” the seasoned coach says, with a pinch of laughter.

A soft-spoken youngster, Rabada talks less and is not someone who would while away his time on watching films or partying. Here’s a 22-year-old who is crazy about watching videos on YouTube. It’s just that, the playlist doesn’t pop up names of rockstars or an actors. The names are usually of Donald, Steyn, Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Holding among others.

Welcome to the world of ‘baby’ Rabada!

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