Dubai: Kagiso Rabada, at 25 years, is easily one of the most complete fast bowlers in the world but wears the status very lightly on his shoulders. A disarming smile is what he usually offers at the compliments showered on him at post-match presentations, while his philosophy about his craft is simple - the execution is ultimately more important than all the research and planning.
If Delhi Capitals has been making a strong title-push this season, Rabada - or ‘KG’ as he is nicknamed - has been a key figure behind it. While the South African is up there at the top in the race for Purple Cap for the highest wicket-taker in IPL 2020 with 23 wickets, he and his compatriot Anrich Nortje have stamped their place as the most feared new ball operators with their mix of scorching pace, yorkers and slower ones.
Ever since he broke into the international arena following a sensational performance in the Under-19 World Cup in 2014, there has been no stopping him as he is already an owner of 197 Test wickets (with four 10-wicket hauls already) and 117 ODI wickets - not to speak of being a much sought after name in the world of franchise cricket.
What’s also fascinating is his world view, as he didn’t pull back any punches during a recent media briefing about his ‘‘social responsibility’’ to speak up about causes that are close to his heart - namely the Black Lives Matter movement and the influence of Nelson Mandela in his life.
A man with clearly a mind of his own, Rabada took time out to speak about his team’s campaign, the huge legacy of Dale Steyn and his personal goals and ambitions in an exclusive interview with Gulf News. Following are the excerpts:
GULF NEWS: You have been acknowledged as one of the key factors behind the strong run of Delhi Capitals this season. How do you react to this?
KAGISO RABADA: It’s great to hear that, and I’m honoured, but there are several factors behind our team’s strong run and I am only one of them. We’ve had multiple Man of the Match award winners, so that should tell you that we have many performers in this team. And I am happy that I am one of them and my wickets have contributed to the team’s success.
When the IPL was about to start, it was presumed that it will be a spinners’ tournament but a number of fast bowlers are in the chase for the Purple Cap. How are you enjoying bowling here?
Very much. I enjoy bowling in the UAE, I played the Under-19 World Cup here too and have very fond memories of that. Isn’t it great that in T20s which is perceived to be a batsman’s game so often, there are bowlers that have been very imprehiessive too? To be honest, it’s been an incredible tournament, whether it’s for the batters or bowlers, you see the quality of cricket and you know, and how just so many games have gone down to the wire, which is overall extremely satisfying.
You have been enjoying a great economy rate in all formats of the game, including IPL. Do you plan any changes in your approach to bowling in each format?
I am a believer in execution more than planning, to be honest. Of course we study all opponents. You look at how you’ve done against them in past meetings, and sit with the analyst. There’s a lot of data and information in their systems that help you understand the opponent better. But I need to execute all that research and understanding when I actually hold and ball and run up to the batsman. So execution is always the key for me.
Anrich Nortje, your compatriot, has played a great supporting role to you in his debut season. What’s your assessment about him?
Well, my assessment would be that he’s had quite a phenomenal tournament so far. He has a long road ahead, and a very bright future. I’ve enjoyed bowling with him tremendously, and I hope the feeling is mutual! But on a serious note, I have enjoyed the fact that we have constantly tried to learn from each other. We’re talking about the art of fast bowling, finer aspects, technical stuff, and I enjoy these conversations with him.
You have now succeeded in establishing yourself as the rightful heir to Dale Steyn’s legacy. Does the responsibility often bother you?
I am not a big believer is titles or tags really. Dale has been amazing, and continues to inspire so many youngsters even now. In fact, even in our Delhi Capitals side, he’s been Tushar Deshpande’s role model. Do responsibilities bother me? Well, it is my job to perform those responsibilities to the best of my ability, isn’t it? That’s what I am here for.
To bowl well, to contain the batsmen, to try and take wickets and contribute as well as I can in my team’s performance. That’s how I look at it and I keep things very basic and simple, so as to not make it appear something very big or daunting.
Have you set yourself any personal goals in terms of wickets and records in the coming years?
Well, I don’t tend to look at numbers very much. But I want to do well, I want South Africa to do well. I know the current results have not gone very much in our team’s favour, but this is a transition phase. There is tremendous potential and I want us to beat the best in the world.
Yes, that’s my vision, you could say.