Touring Australia has always been the litmus test for any Test cricketer. The home side are habitually at the top of the Test pile – or close enough – which immediately initiates a stern examination of ability and technique.
That’s the easy part though. Crowd “participation” is taken to entirely different level Down Under. Just ask Pat Symcox, the former South African off-spinner, who was once pelted with a shower of golf and tennis balls, bottles, and was even offered some dinner when a stuffed whole chicken came his way. New Zealander Mark Richardson has some interesting tales too, like the time he fielded with a helmet on all the way out on the third-man boundary during one raucous night at the SCG.
It is all a means to break down the individual mentally. And it’s a line of attack that is not only left to the drunken boguns. Prior to any major series a current or former Aussie star is routinely hauled out by the local media to fire the first salvo at the opposition’s premier weapon with the hope that it may trigger some uncertainties within the tourists camp.
In a previous era Glenn McGrath was the finest exhibitor of this trait with the record-breaking paceman starting the mind-games well in advance. However, it seems now that the goading baton has been passed on to veteran seamer Peter Siddle, with the 31-year-old claiming the Aussies could “target” South Africa’s young pace sensation Kagiso Rabada in the upcoming three-match series.
"Rabada is coming along well," Siddle told cricket.com.au on Tuesday. "It's a good find for them and he's progressing well. So it'll be interesting to see how he goes over here in a big series.
"There will be a fair bit of pressure on him I think, coming out to Australia and all the hype around the series and that type of thing. I don't reckon (he is a danger man). I reckon he's the man we can sort of target."
Siddle, who is on the comeback trail after a six-month lay-off with a back injury ruling him out of contention for the first Test at the Waca starting on November 3, believes Rabada’s position is similar to when England fast bowler Steve Finn arrived on his first tour of Australia a few years ago.
"In the past other countries have brought out players like that - you sort of think of (England's) Steve Finn a few Ashes series ago (2010-11) when they brought him out. He might have taken a few wickets but he did leak a lot of runs. There was a lot of pressure on him, from his end. So that's the sort of thing that we could look to do to Rabada," Siddle commented.
Rabada has yet to play red-ball – or should that be pink ball cricket now with the third Test in Adelaide set to be played under lights – in Australia, although he did make his international debut in a T20 series at the same venue two years ago.
South Africa’s Cricketer of the Year has grown exponentially, though, since leaking 27 runs from his three overs that evening with the 21-year-old virtually leading the Proteas attack during the last home summer when both Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander were ruled out through injury. The experience gained came to fruition in the final Test against England at Centurion when he snared 13 wickets in the match (7/112 and 6/32) to bowl South Africa to their only Test victory of the 2015/16 season.
The stellar duo are back in the saddle with Rabada, along with long-time hunting partner Morne Morkel for this three-match series, allowing the national selectors with the option of sending out a formidable four-pronged pace attack to unsettle the home batting unit. Siddle, though, believes that if the Aussie batsmen can unsettle the youngest member of the Proteas attack, it will have a knock-on effect.
"We know Dale, if he gets a big workload, it puts him under a lot of pressure ," Siddle said. "Dale and whoever else that third option is; whether it's Philander, Abbott or whoever it might be; yeah, it's going to put a lot of pressure on them (if Rabada leaks runs)."