Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada told IOL Sport that it is his 'will to win' that continues to make him one of the best fast bowlers in the world.
At the 2023 Cricket South Africa Awards last Friday, Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada was awarded Test player of the year and following his featuring in the top five Test wicket takers in the world this past season, the award was well deserved.
The first Test of the 2021/23 World Test Championship cycle, on Boxing Day against India, Rabada wasn’t at his best and even the then captain, Dean Elgar, had communicated the same message to Rabada.
The following two Tests of the Freedom Trophy, Rabada was back to his old self, taking wickets all around.
On tour in New Zealand, Rabada was pick of the bowlers and some will say even in England last season, Rabada wasn’t too far off his best especially with the spell he produced at Lord’s.
Commenting on his Test player of the year award, Rabada had mixed feelings in that he believes it wasn’t his best season but at the same time he is delighted to have won such a big award for his efforts in the season.
“If I’m being critical, (my season) was a bit up and down,” Rabada told IOL Sport in an exclusive interview.
“I thought I could’ve been better more consistently. But at the end of the day I did try my best and I’m glad that I reaped the rewards, I guess.” He added.
Post 2018, international cricket handed Rabada an important lesson that results won’t always go your way.
Rabada says their 2019 World Cup campaign, which saw them knocked out before they could finish their round robin fixtures, taught him to rid of self-doubt and accept that on the day there’s a possibility you could end up on the losing side.
“Personally, the 2019 World Cup taught me not to doubt and accept that there’s either defeat or success, and it’s about keeping success in your mind at all times.” said Rabada.
Rabada has been playing for the Proteas for a good nine years and from the time he made his Proteas debut at the Adelaide Oval, it was clear that Rabada was cut from a different cloth; he was always on a league of his own.
No one will forget his match winning performance in Perth in 2016 at the tender age of 21.
His eleven-wicket haul against Australia at St. George’s Park Cricket Stadium in 2018 will forever be remembered, but most importantly it was clear from those early years that Rabada was a different kind of beast.
The ups and downs of the past couples of seasons have not taken anything away from what makes Rabada special and he told IOL Sport that he attests all his success to his ‘will to win’.
“For myself I think what makes me so different and successful is my will to win,”said Rabada.
“I mean, everyone is different but if you ask me what drives me it’s definitely my will to win.” He added.
Looking at the squad that might get picked in September for the 2023 World Cup, Rabada’s nine-year international experience will come in handy.
However Rob Walter picks his squad, there’s no escaping the little World Cup experience the players in the current Proteas ODI set-up have.
Rabada understands all this and says it’s a no brainer that he now has to step up and be the senior player in the team.
“Because of my experience, how long I’ve been playing and what I’ve done, taking the senior player role is a no brainer for me,” said Rabada.
“It’s all about welcoming the youngsters into the squad and making them feel a part of the team and making them understand where we want to go so that we are all in the same boat.” He added.
Most importantly, the youngsters will feed off the senior players to understand what it means to play for the Proteas.
Rabada thinks the recently completed camp in Durban gave an opportunity for them as senior players to have a say on the direction they want the team to go.
As a team, they worked mostly on defining their identity.
“Identity is important because it becomes what you go back to when things are going slightly off track,” explained Rabada.
“It’s something you enhance when things are really going your way. It works as a reference; it acts as a compass as to what you want to achieve as a team.” He added.
There’s no doubt that the Proteas squad has the talent to go all the way in the World Cup this time around, but that journey starts with them coming up with their identity and their style of play and letting the rest take care of itself.