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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

India vs South Africa: Kagiso Rabada’s search for tips adds to searing pace

Kagiso Rabada, the tall South Africa pace spearhead, is mature beyond his 22 years and much more than talent, says Gordon Parsons, his long-time mentor, ahead of the India Test series starting on January 5.

cricket Updated: Dec 29, 2017 15:22 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Cape Town
At the tender age of 22, South Africa bowler Kagiso Rabada has already played 23 Test matches.
At the tender age of 22, South Africa bowler Kagiso Rabada has already played 23 Test matches.(AFP)

Kagiso Rabada had just left school at Johannesburg’s St Stithians Boys College when India last toured South Africa in 2013.

In the next four years, he won South Africa the 2014 U-19 World Cup with 14 wickets on flat UAE pitches and landed a multi-million IPL contract at 21 before taking over as the Proteas bowling spearhead in the absence of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.

READ | BCCI gives Tests a short shrift on South Africa tour

At 22, Rabada is the youngest South Africa pacer poised to take on India in the New Year’s Test here. Yet, he looks years ahead of his age. Gordon Parsons, bowling coach of Highveld Lions, attributes it to Rabada’s thirst for knowledge.

“You know one question Kagiso always asked me was ‘what made Malcolm Marshall so quick?’ The guy is extremely hungry to know everything about cricket. He is like a sponge,” Parsons told Hindustan Times over phone. “He wants to know where he is going. And he is not motivated by money. For a coach that is a magical thing to work with,” said Parsons.


Nicknamed ‘Bullhead’ in the County circuit during the 1980s, Parsons is Rabada’s medium to interact with the legendary West Indies pace bowlers when they sit to talk about cricket. “We used to have the time to sit with them with a beer and talk -- players like Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Wasim Akram. I passed on things (to Rabada) that they told me,” said Parsons.

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Having seen Rabada grow before him since playing a warm-up game for the Lions at 16, Parsons says being a natural athlete has helped his case. Rabada stands at 1.91m, and fast bowling came naturally to him.

“I used to hold the record for the best first-class figures in an innings (9/72) at the Wanderers. He was 18 when he broke that with 9/36 against Dolphins. He just blew them away with a 15-wicket haul. You sit up and take note after that. We knew we had a special player here. He is walking the walk, not talking the talk,” said Parsons.


Despite Rabada’s rapid rise, Parsons doesn’t think he was pushed into the South Africa squad. “He is not being fast-tracked. They (Proteas) have managed him well. They haven’t over-bowled him. They stopped him from playing a lot of cricket for us when I thought he should be playing at the domestic level. But yes, he is looking very good and mature for his age. He is not the average 22-year-old.”

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Above everything else, Parsons feels Rabada’s pace alone should bother India in the upcoming Test series. “Against India, Kagiso’s role will be that of a strike bowler. His job is to bowl 150kph, which I think no one else in the world can bowl at the moment, and make things happen,” said Parsons.

“Touchwood, Rabada has been injury free. He has this natural ability to swing the ball. And he is not intimidated by big names. He will think ‘I am gonna knock this guy over’. If he was playing for England, they would have been probably 0-2 instead of being 0-3 down,” chuckled Parsons.