Overbowled Rabada's World Cup no-show hurts Proteas

Kagiso Rabada (Getty)
Kagiso Rabada (Getty)

Lord's - Make no mistake, the Proteas are broken. 

Having gone into the 2019 Cricket World Cup as the No 3-ranked side in ODI cricket, they were expected to at least make the semi-finals.

Bookmakers all around the world agreed and they were considered fourth-favourites for the title behind England, India and Australia. 

However, what has transpired over the last three-and-a-bit weeks is something that nobody saw coming. 

South Africa have gone from one of the world's major cricketing nations to a side that has lost five times at this tournament, while their only success to date is a win over lowly Afghanistan. 

It is hard to picture how the Proteas could have performed worse.

There have been issues throughout, from injuries to an off-field media drama involving AB de Villiers' alleged squad availability, but the only thing that matters is that this side has not performed anywhere near well enough. 

There have been well-documented issues with the top-order, where nobody has scored more than 68 despite every specialist batsman getting at least two starts at different stages of the campaign. 

Not scoring enough runs has been the obvious problem, but South Africa went into this World Cup believing that their bowling was going to get them to the July 14 final. 

Kagiso Rabada, considered one of the world's very best, was considered vital to those plans. 

The 24-year-old was always going to be key to any success South Africa had in England, and his role became even more important when Dale Steyn was sent home injured after the Proteas had played just two matches. 

It is not fair to blame this disaster on any one individual, but to say that the Proteas expected more out of Rabada is a gross understatement. 

A return of just wickets at a staggering average of 50.83 is what the Proteas have got from their main strike bowler in England, and his 0/65 (10) on Sunday summed things up.

"KG (Rabada) is trying," skipper Faf du Plessis said after Sunday's 49-run loss to Pakistan at Lord's, which served as the final nail in the Proteas' World Cup coffin.

"I suppose the thing with KG and where a lot of the guys are struggling at the moment is that they haven't started the tournament well; and therefore, your confidence takes a bit of a hit, and it just rolls on.

"It's such a snowball effect ... you open your eyes, and you're doing the same thing again.

"He's a great bowler. He will be able to fix that. His career has been one that's been just going up and up and up every time he's played for us.

"This is probably his first stumbling block as a great fast bowler, so for him now, it will be how he responds, how he learns in this period and how he makes sure he gets better."

Because of his obvious value to the Proteas, there have often been concerns over Rabada's workloads. 

He is instrumental for South Africa in all three formats, he is not a player who likes to miss out on international cricket, and he is also a superstar in the Indian Premier League. 

Du Plessis acknowledged on Sunday that Rabada had bowled too much for his liking, while he also revealed that Proteas management had explored the possibility of not sending him to the IPL. 

As it was, Rabada left the IPL a few weeks early with what was labelled as a tight back. 

Was South Africa's most dangerous bowling weapon in optimum physical condition heading into the World Cup?

"We did try and get him not to go to the IPL; to try and stay and get fresh," Du Plessis said.

"When he went there, we wanted to try and get him back halfway through the IPL because it's important, not just for him, but a few other players.

"I spoke about it before the IPL even started, that it's important that we try and find space to rest our three-format players, because they play all the formats all the time, and then IPL.

"I don't think it's necessarily just the IPL, but it was important for a few guys to rest; and the fact that they didn't meant that they - you know, they came into the tournament not fresh.

"That's not an excuse; that's just a fact.

"And with KG, you can see that his pace is probably a little bit down from where he normally is."

Du Plessis added that keeping Rabada at his best was a challenge that South African cricket would face all the time, given his importance to the national side.

"He's such a big player for the team; it's a difficult thing to do," said Du Plessis.

"You need three or four or five bowlers in the wings waiting, so you can have a bit of a rotation system."

@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 ...

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