Before every major tournament, South Africa cricket team are the subject of discussion for experts wondering whether they can shed their tag as perennial chokers in cricket and it will be no different as the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 starts on June 1.
Before the 2007 World Cup, then skipper Graeme Smith retorted angrily retorted to the question with a dismissive “the only thing you choke on is spare ribs”. However, South Africa batsmen, including Smith, lost the plot in the semifinal against Australia.
A selection controversy and an inspired New Zealand ended their run in the 2015 World Cup while they didn’t progress to the knockout in last year’s World T20 in India.
Fast bowler Kagiso Rabada though is confident all that pain will end in Champions Trophy in England and Wales. South Africa’s only ICC title to date came in the inaugural ICC Knock Out tournament in Bangladesh in 1998.
South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada though believes the team is flexible and has been so consistent it will go all the way. Playing in the IPL, Rabada already has his thoughts on the Champions Trophy.
“It’s not far away. We’re excited and have got a very strong side. We will be confident going in, we have to be. It’s of utmost importance. We are a well-balanced side with a blend of experience and youth. It’s going to be fun, and we are hoping to win it,” Rabada told HT during an interaction organised on behalf of South Africa’s planned #T20 Global Destination League.
What about confidence deserting South Africa in major event? “The confidence is already there,” he said. “We’ve won every single ODI series; I can’t remember when we last lost an ODI series.”
“We beat Sri Lanka 5-0, Australia 5-0, England 3-2, 3-2, New Zealand 3-2 as well. But this is a different tournament. But the confidence is there, and we will have to execute.”
The results reeled out by the 21-year-old pace spearhead is correct, though the order is not. South Africa have won their last seven ODI series out of eight, the only one eluding them being a Tri-series in West Indies last year, which Australia won.
Skipper AB de Villiers has spoken about the team’s flexibility, and Rabada will be very much a part of that. “I sometimes open the bowling, sometimes come one change. We have to see what the plan is on that day.”
Although, Kyle Abbott, who was controversially left out of the 2015 World Cup semifinal to accommodate Vernon Philander, who was picked despite his hamstring problem to fulfil the racial quota South African sports teams are expected to.
Abbott has since packed his bags for England, to cash in on the Kolpak rule which gives a South African player the freedom of movement and work like a European Union citizen.
Rabada didn’t feel Abbott’s absence would be an issue, having shared the new ball with Morne Morkel and even Wayne Parnell.