JOHANNESBURG – “For the last month, I have just ate,” says Proteas serial awards winner Kagiso Rabada.
The South African pace spearhead has, of course, been getting in some much-needed “me time” due to a lower back injury, which caused him to miss last month’s Indian Premier League.
Rabada did, however, manage to get off his couch for a little while on Saturday evening to head to the Sandton Convention Centre, where he was once again the undeniable jewel in Cricket South Africa’s Awards crown.
For the second time in three years, the big fast bowler gorged himself, bowling everyone over by scooping six prizes again, including the prestigious CSA Men’s Player of the Year.
His cup was certainly overflowing with Rabada also collecting the Test, ODI, Fans’ Player and RAM Delivery of the Year awards to remain the only South African cricketer to win half-a-dozen gongs.
Now grizzled at 23 years old, in comparison to the fresh-faced laaitie a couple of years ago that was almost star-struck by his achievements, Rabada appreciates the significance of the honours bestowed on him much more second time around.
“Last time I was caught quite off-guard. I get quite shy. I think I handled it better (now). I am honoured and respected to earn these awards. I feel that I am more relaxed,” Rabada told Independent Media.
“I am thankful that I have won these awards. I have worked quite hard. I didn’t think I would win so many awards. So, many people had a good season. I thought there was going to be a lot of suspense, but that’s not what happened.”
Rabada is the torchbearer of a new generation of South African cricketers coming to the fore.
With former Proteas stalwarts AB de Villiers and Morné Morkel bowing out of international cricket at the end of last summer, there is a new youthful energy injecting a fresh spark into the national team.
Aiden Markram has already left his imprint on the Proteas this past season, which he too earned recognition for at the Awards ceremony.
Rabada’s 2014 ICC World Cup Under-19 winning captain scooped the International Newcomer of the Year award, beating off challenges from impressive candidates such as speedster Lungi Ngidi and wicket-keeper batsman Heinrich Klaasen.
The future certainly excites Rabada, especially the prospect of forming a potent new-ball partnership Ngidi, who has just returned from a spectacular IPL with the championship-winning Chennai Super Kings.
“There’s a nice blend of experience and youth (within the Proteas at the moment). The youth definitely is going to learn from the experienced guys and take it forward,” Rabada said.
“I feel he (Ngidi) is a great talent. I saw him in school. He is a bright guy, it shows in his learning.
“He grasps things quite quickly and it is a great strength of him and I am really excited to see how he is going to accept this new challenge is he is about to go on.”
With Rabada beginning his rehabilitation process soon ahead of the upcoming Sri Lanka tour, he cannot though help but look ahead at the pot of gold waiting at the end of the coming year.
“I have had a month break. I just ate. I enjoyed being at home. I am on a three-month plan. But it is time to get back into it.
“There’s a World Cup at the end of the year. I am looking forward to it. It hasn’t gone our way before in Cup tournaments. But we just need to try and learn and execute what we didn’t do. Control the controllables.”