JOHANNESBURG – “Did you really push that guy KG?”
This was not a question from a journalist at a press conference. Instead, it was being posed by an innocent Doringkloof Primary School learner to Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada.
In an instant South Africa’s fast-bowling hero realised his responsibility stretches further than just hurling down rockets in excess of 145km/h aimed to rip through the defences of Australian batsmen.
“These kids are very passionate about everything they do. They do things in a diligent manner, a pure manner. When they do something, they really enjoy it,” said the currently suspended Rabada.
“I’m aware (I’m setting an example), which is why I guess incidents like these (suspension) are not the best for children to see, because they can be portrayed or perceived in a bad way. It’s to do things… still being yourself, but realising that people can perceive things in a different way.”
The past week has certainly been “bittersweet” for Rabada.
Anyone who saw the thoroughbred tear through the Australian batting line-up in a hostile, quick and accurate spell of rip-snorting fast bowling at St George’s Park would have known they had witnessed a rare breed – a talent so special, the hair on grown men’s arms are raised.
But they would also have left thinking that here was a young man filled with rage.
Every wicket – and there were 11 in the match – was followed by an outburst that ultimately led to a two-match suspension after Rabada brushed the shoulder of Australian captain Steve Smith.
Although Cricket South Africa are appealing the ICC’s sanction of three demerit points, the last few days away from the coalface of a fever-pitch series that has been engulfed in controversy has allowed him to take cognisance of his actions.
Rabada’s suspension has certainly whipped the nation into a frenzy, with the overwhelming majority believing the ICC’s sanction was overly harsh.
But after a chat with among others his dad Dr Mpho Rabada, the world’s premier bowler has realised he needs to manage his emotions better, even though he was reared with the notion that fast bowlers need to be aggressive.
“People have been talking about it. It can be hard to get away from it because people are talking about it a lot. There’s an appeal coming. We looked at it (the video) from a different angle, to see whether it could work.
“(Upon reflection) I must obey the rules. I do things because I’m passionate. Sometimes you are bowling against the best players. I guess I shouldn’t really rub it into their faces.
“I guess what I’ve grown up seeing, hearing what fast bowling is, and I kind of just adopted it.
“But that’s not an excuse, I guess. It’s a case of ‘Still have the passion, but let the batsman be after I get him out’.
“Anyone can give you advice on that – it’s emotional, so your parents, a close friend, it’s about managing your emotions and making sure that you follow the rules, not do anything stupid. It teaches you about yourself and how you react in certain situations, and what is a better way to react without losing anything. My father has given me advice, short and sweet, he told me to relax and talk with the ball.”
In his brief period with the national team Rabada, through his spectacular performances, has entrenched himself as one of the “senior” players in the Proteas dressing-room.
Besides when the red-mist descends when celebrating a wicket, he has displayed a sense of maturity belying his tender 22 years.
However, the events of the past week has shown that even he needs some guidance as he circumnavigates the road of international stardom.
Judging by their sociable interactions on Thursday at a Nissan Coaching Clinic in Centurion, it certainly helps that Rabada has a fellow fiery fast bowler by the name of Dale Steyn by his side.
“Dale is a very experienced campaigner. We have different types of conversations, and it just highlights that he is supporting me. He doesn’t really have to say (anything). He says it in a different way. It is in his demeanour,” Rabada explained.
Rabada is expected to travel to Cape Town when the Proteas convene on Monday for the third Test at Newlands starting on Thursday, March 22.