50 up ... Kagiso Rabada aims for longevity in the Test arena
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Cape Town - Darling Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada will celebrate a special landmark this week when he wins his 50th Test cap for South Africa.
Aged 26, the paceman continues to marvel and break all sorts of records during his journey as a Test cricketer.
Rabada already has 226 wickets to his name after last year becoming the fastest South African bowler in history – and fourth fastest overall in terms of age – to get to 200 Test scalps.
He also has a combined 175 wickets in One-Day and Twenty20 Internationals to his credit and continues to flourishes a cricketer.
When the Proteas take on India in the third Betway Test in Cape Town starting on Tuesday, Rabada will again walk out as leader of the pack for the Freedom Series decider.
“I think it’s quite special,” he said ahead of the landmark appearance. “I didn’t even know how many games I was on and only found out after the last Test match that this would be my 50th.
“It kind of really goes by without noticing. But it’s something special for me, I’ve always wanted to represent my country, so this is definitely a personal milestone and one that I’ll hold dear to my heart.”
But getting to the top has not been a straightforward journey for Rabada as he explains.
“There’s been lots of ups and downs, it’s definitely been challenging to keep good performances going for a long amount of time,” he said. “It’s been tough navigating your way through the lows – I think that’s been quite difficult – and then also trying to get through the external pressures that can influence your game and also influence the team space.
“Those are things you have to get used to dealing and things you constantly learn how to deal with.
“At the end of the day you almost have to remind yourself to keep enjoying it and remember yourself as this youngster who just wanted to represent your country and show the world what you’re about.”
Rabada, who is the leading wicket-taker in the series with 13 scalps to his name, made his debut for the Proteas as a teenager way back in 2014. That first appearance came in a T20I.
A year later he played ODI cricket and also earned his first Test cap. He has played alongside Proteas’ legends like AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and Dale Steyn, to name a few. Rabada says it has been a wonderful journey so far.
“It’s been an honour and privilege to play alongside those big names,” he said. “I was watching them in school representing their country and I had a burning desire to play at this level and to play with them, some of my heroes, and that’s been really extraordinary.
“I still pinch myself till this day. I’ve learnt so much from them. It’s what dreams are made of.”
Asked about his career highlights, he counts a 2-1 Test series win over Australia in 2016 and a 2015 ODI trip to India amongst the highlights.
“The tours that stand out were when we visited India in 2015 and we became the first South African touring team to beat India in an ODI series away from home,” Rabada beamed. “Also when we went to Australia in 2016 when a lot of our players were kind of retiring and we really had to dig deep and ended up winning the series 2-1 away from home.
“Australia is a big challenge away from home and those two series were the highlights of my career thus far.”
With Rabada now set to join another elite club of 26-year-olds to have won 50 Test caps, he is targeting many more for his country.
“As much as it is about taking wickets, it’s about being the best I can be and there’s no limit to that,” he added. “I feel like I’m nowhere near done.
“It’s just about coming back and playing the next game. You can never take international cricket for granted.
“For me it’s about the longevity and not doing it for just a short amount of time. It’s about doing it for a long time and that’s what keeps driving me.”