Rabada will miss the spectators firing him up in the Newlands theatre
CAPE TOWN - It would be interesting to find out whether Kagiso Rabada knows who Apollo Creed – the fictional world boxing champion that gave Rocky Balboa his shot at immortality back in the 1975 blockbuster – was.
Rabada probably knows “Creed” – Apollo’s son played by Michael B. Jordan – from the sequels that aired in 2015 and 2018.
But what does all this movie talk have to do with one of the finest fast bowlers of our generation?
Well, Rabada reminds of me of Apollo. Tall, athletic, clean cut with fame, wealth, endorsements and celebrity profile to match. Maybe Rabada doesn’t quite have a motor mouth like Apollo, but he surely knows his value and the need to forge a lengthy and lucrative career out of his chosen sport.
“When I first started with the Proteas I just wanted to play every game, and although I’ve definitely still got the ambition, now it is about being smart with it. You have to realise there is a long career ahead, there’s a lot of volume of cricket, and how I can stay fresh. It’s about how to stay fresh and therefore be close to my best,” the 25-year-old said on Monday.
It certainly is encouraging to hear the Proteas’ spearhead speak about wanting to be around for the foreseeable future, and also about managing his workload, particularly after being bowled almost into the ground in his first five years of international cricket.
But Rabada is also a champion. And every belt holder wants to know his true worth. And that can only be achieved through a blood-thirsty contender that wants to knock him off his perch. To the absolute point where he needs to dig deep and haul out his true character and skill – just like Rocky pushed Apollo in those epic early clashes.
Rabada may publicly attempt to play down the threat England’s challenger Jofra Archer poses, but he concedes once they step into the middle the gloves are most certainly off.
“Every series you play there is always a fire burning. But at the end of the day, we are also human beings and sometimes you’re a bit lazy. However, once you get into it, the juices start flowing. Talking about it gets you amped. I don’t really get amped for every day that I wake up. But when you get into the game, that’s when you really wake up.”
It is often a boisterous crowd that provides the firelighters in contests such as these. This will unfortunately, though, not be possible in the upcoming series with all the matches at Newlands and Boland Park set to be played behind closed doors due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Rabada admits the spectators add to the “theatre” of the occasion, but that he ultimately adopts the persona of a hunter once he zones in on his prey.
“The crowd obviously gives that extra bit of adrenalin and drama if you want to put it that way. So, there is definitely something missing without the crowd,” Rabada said.
“But at the end of the day we are competitive cricketers who want to compete. Maybe I can’t explain it and the public doesn’t quite understand … but when I’m playing and I’m running in at Joe Root, the last thing I am thinking about … it’s a straight out contest between me and him if I can put it that way.”
The upcoming T20 series is certainly going to be a rumble in an African jungle.