Kagiso Rabada: Mastering the art of bowling fast

The South Africa pacer, one of the top bowlers in the IPL, is now used to the bio-bubble. He has been recording podcasts and sipping coffee with Delhi Capitals team-mate Harshal Patel on off days.

Kagiso Rabada is a Super Over star. Twice in IPL 2020, he has dominated the tie-breaker to take his team to victory.   -  Sportzpics / BCCI

The name Kagiso Rabada has a nice ring to it. It sounds even better when the commentators go “Rabaadaaaaa!” every time he picks up a wicket. With 21 wickets in the first 10 games of the 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL) season, the Delhi Capitals fast bowler has strained their vocal chords.

Rabada is a Super Over star, too. For the second time in the tournament, he dominated the tie-breaker to take his team to victory. The right-arm quick had defended 10 runs against Kolkata Knight Riders last year. This time, Kings XI Punjab had to face his wrath. Rabada finished the Super Over in three balls by dismissing K. L. Rahul and Nicholas Pooran.

In a chat with Sportstar from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the South African spoke about the art of fast bowling, hunting along with compatriot Anrich Nortje, the Indian pace pack and more.

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What’s the magic behind your success and consistency in the UAE conditions? How did you prepare for the IPL?

Well, I didn’t really bowl during the lockdown. It was a much-needed time for me to recharge physically and mentally, because I’d played non-stop cricket for the last five-six years. I actually kept myself busy with things that I’d have no time for otherwise. Whether it’s spending time with family or working on a podcast with my friend. Once the gyms started opening in South Africa, I visited the gym a few times, and then got to bowling once I came here. There’s no magic, to be honest. Fast bowling is an art, and I keep working towards bettering it. As a bowler, I work on my plans for a given match, and then it’s all about executing them to the best of my ability on the match day.

You have got all the biggies in the IPL so far? Virat Kohli, M. S. Dhoni, Faf du Plessis, Kane Williamson to name a few. Which was the most special one?

They’re all special, and I can’t pick one. You’ve got some really quality batsmen on that list. They are all special for me, because they are for the team. It doesn’t matter who all I have dismissed as long it has contributed to my team’s victory.

“Anrich (Nortje) has been absolutely phenomenal this season. I’ve played a fair amount of cricket with him, and when I heard Delhi Capitals had bought him, I was excited for him,” Rabada says about his compatriot.   -  Sportzpics / BCCI


Do you have a specific homework where you plan for every batsman in the opponent side? What’s the process before every game?

We have a fantastic set of coaches, and also an analyst who has all the data, videos, information breakdown, and we all interact very often with him. All that stuff is like research material, right? And you can study it as well as you can, but like I mentioned earlier, ultimately what matters is how you apply it on the field. If I’ve been hit by a batsman for a few boundaries, I need to plan at that moment how I can best recover from it. How can I bowl the rest of the over well, or what delivery will best control the scoring rate at that point.

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You have become a Super Over star, too. You have done it twice, and hopefully there will be more. What’s the key to winning in such situations?

I think the most important ingredient to succeed in those pressure situations is to have a calm head on your shoulders. It’s not easy, and I’d be lying if I said I do not feel any pressure.

There is of course pressure on me and on everyone involved, but I like to stick to the basics of cricket and bowl according to my plans, and that’s what has worked so far for me and the team.

Anrich Nortje has been solid, too. How much of a help is it to have a team-mate from South Africa in your IPL side?

Anrich has been absolutely phenomenal this season. I’ve played a fair amount of cricket with him, and when I heard Delhi Capitals had bought him, I was excited for him. I think this season he has really risen to the occasion and has produced some great performances under pressure. It’s good to have him around off the field, too. When we have some downtime, maybe we’ll chill by the pool and all that, and just chat. And really it’s been a situation where we’re both learning from each other, which I think is beautiful.

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What does head coach Ricky Ponting bring to the table from a fast bowler’s point of view?

Ricky is a legend of the game. He has immense experience of both playing the game and now even coaching, so he’s always got the right things to say to everyone in the squad, and that is something that sets him apart. His knowledge of the game, and more so of how to handle pressure situations, is something that I’ve always enjoyed listening to.

When you speak to him about making plans for certain batsmen or what kind of deliveries you can use, he always has the answers. He’s also someone who motivates and leads by example.

Shreyas Iyer took up captaincy at a young age. What makes him special?

I’ve known Shreyas from a really young age. We started playing against each other at the under-19 level and have since played for our ‘A’ teams and eventually for the senior teams. We’ve always bonded really well, and he has a really good cricketing brain. His temperament and confidence on the field are there for everyone to see, and off the field he’s one of the most chilled-out guys you’ll ever meet. We’ve actually been to the NBA as well in the (United) States together, and that was a great trip.

What are your thoughts on Indian pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami? You three have been the top quicks in IPL 2020 so far.

Anrich has been the quickest (laughs)! No, they’re both quality fast bowlers, and it’s great to see them bowling well for their teams. India has a tremendous fast bowling unit at the moment, and it’s a crucial element of the team doing so well. Even Umesh Yadav and Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) are tremendous, as is Ishant (Sharma), who is my Delhi Capitals teammate. I do hope he recovers well and can be back on the ground soon.

India pace trio (from left) Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. “Shami and Bumrah are both quality fast bowlers, and it’s great to see them bowling well for their teams... Even Umesh Yadav and Bhuvi are tremendous, as is Ishant (Sharma),” says Rabada.   -  AFP


How challenging has the bio-bubble experience in the UAE been? This is a very different IPL...

It’s different, no doubt, yes. There are several restrictions, and we can’t really go anywhere apart from the ground. But that’s what we’re here for. To play cricket. This is what we love doing, and we’re getting to do it. Not everyone in the world is that fortunate or privileged at the moment, so we must be grateful to be here. And, as challenging as the bio-bubble maybe, it’s something we have got used to now. And it allows us to hang out as a team a lot more. We can simply chill, not talk cricket, and get to know each other better while we’re all in the same place and have nowhere else to go.

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How are you unwinding? Who are your hangout buddies in Delhi Capitals?

So I mentioned my podcast back in South Africa earlier. It’s something I’ve been keeping myself busy with even here in Dubai. We have a team room here with table tennis and pool table and PlayStation options, which is pretty cool. But I enjoy relaxing by the pool with my headphones on, and I get in for a dip in the water, which is very relaxing.

I’m close to quite a few guys here. A lot of us here are coffee fans, so we have the coffee mafia going on here. Harshal Patel is known for his coffee brewing, so we end up in his room for fresh coffee — Harshal, Mohit (Sharma), Ajinkya (Rahane) and I. We have new members joining the club, too, like Axar Patel, and Ishant till the time he was here.