Well rested Rabada excited for Dubai IPL
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JOHANNESBURG - After almost six months of lockdown Kagiso Rabada is keen to get back to playing once more, with the Indian Premier League providing the first opportunity for him to get some competitive cricket under his belt.
Rabada admits he needed the break that the Covid-19 lockdown provided. “I really, really enjoyed it. It’s been five years of non-stop cricket, so I loved being home. To be honest I was in no rush to get back. But we are also sportsmen, and we are always competitive and once you get back into it those juices flow naturally,” said the 25 year old fast bowler.
Rabada has packed a lot of cricket into the last six years since making his international debut in a T20 match against Australia in Adelaide in 2014. He’s played a total of 142 matches - 43 Tests, 75 One-Day and 24 T20 Internationals.
Last season, he acknowledges, wasn’t his best with the national men’s side struggling amidst an administrative meltdown at Cricket South Africa which still hasn’t been resolved. “We didn’t have the best year and I didn’t have the best year but we finished on a strong note against Australia,” he said of South Africa’s last competitive action - a 3-0 sweep in an ODI series that finished on March 7.
Rabada wasn’t in the squad for that series, his season having ended with a groin injury. It had been a frustrating summer, that started with a tour to India that’s best forgotten, where Rabada, after helping the Proteas tie the T20 series 1-1, then struggled to make an impression in the Tests, claiming seven wickets at an average of 40.71.
He found some better form on the friendlier tracks of home, taking 14 wickets in the three Tests he played against England, but his series was curtailed after he was suspended for breaching the ICC disciplinary code for his enthusiastic celebration of Joe Root’s wicket in the Port Elizabeth Test.
The time off has allowed him to reflect and reset goals. Initially he’d like to have a good IPL, for the Delhi Capitals, for whom he starred last year. “I’m excited to go back to Dubai for the IPL. I’ve not been since the 2014 Under-19 World Cup and I’ve always wanted to visit again.”
That was the tournament that Rabada announced himself to the world, and just over a year later he was picked for the senior men’s side. Delhi will certainly hope that those good memories spur Rabada on to great things in an IPL that will be played with crowds absent in a ‘bio bubble’ in three different grounds in the UAE.
Rabada has been training under Highveld Lions coach Wandile Gwavu at the Wanderers.
“It felt like I was coming out of an off-season although that felt new because I haven’t really had an off-season in the past,” he said.
He’ll also check in at Cricket SA’s Centre of Excellence in the next few days for some technical analysis that will include being strapped up into a hi-tech suit, from which data will be gathered to assess pressure points in his action.
“They’re doing that analysis with all the bowlers around the country, everything is moving to (Artificial Intelligence) these days, with players and coaches using data to enhance their performances.
“I’m slowly getting back into it,” he said about his few weeks of bowling. “I’m feeling all right.”
The IPL is scheduled to start on September 19.
Meanwhile, the Proteas men’s team will head to Skukuza on Tuesday for a four-day culture camp where recent controversy around transformation in cricket is certain to be a hot topic for debate.
Topics to be discussed at the camp are the team’s identity, team environment and performance.
“It was very important for us during the break that the Covid-19 pandemic has created to get the guys to reconnect while our FTP (Future Tours Programme) was getting sorted out,” said team manager Volvo Masubelele. “We felt that it was important for the guys to come together to engage on some of the critical issues surrounding the team or elements that need attention.
“We want to leave with a blueprint that the players will be able to own and understand, something that will resonate with them.”