Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, Proteas fast bowler KAGISO RABADA talks about maturing into his role as South Africa’s premier paceman, embracing UK conditions and his passion for music.
Sport24 asked: You made your Test debut in 2015. How would you describe the ride?
Kagiso Rabada: It was great breaking into the national team, and earning my first Test cap against India was a proud moment. It’s been cool to experience what it’s like to be a Protea because I have always wanted to be here. I thoroughly enjoy playing for South Africa across all three formats because it tests different areas of my skill-set and assists my development. The 2014 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup was a springboard for me, and all eyes were on us because we ended up winning the tournament. I played well in the semi-final (Rabada took 6/25 against Australia and announced himself to the cricket community in some style) and everyone made a big deal about it and then people started watching me. We received the recognition, but I also backed it up with my performances at franchise level. And with the matches I have played for the Proteas, I haven’t done too badly. The main factor is that I have been afforded opportunities. It’s cool that I came into an environment that can prove a catalyst to good performances. It has taken a lot for me to get to this point of my career, so all in all I can say that I’m pretty happy with the way things have turned out. It hasn’t been all ups on my journey to reach the summit – there have been downs as well - but my life has changed for the better. I have seen many new countries on my sporting travels, and it’s fair to say that after breaking into the Proteas team, I have been in explore mode ever since.
Sport24 asked: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your burgeoning career?
Kagiso Rabada: In my first season of international cricket, I really just rocked up and bowled, whereas the second and third seasons are the ones in which I have learnt the most. Cricket is a game of fine margins and I have had to make peace with many things. I’ve learnt that it’s the small details that will separate you from the rest. It’s not really your skill that is the point of difference because you already possess your skill. It’s about doing the right things at the right time and that’s a really fine line. You can’t control what the batsmen are going to do, but you can only control where you are going to bowl the ball. You can also control what your mindset will be like and how you are feeling on the day. It’s about having a clear mind and knowing how you are going to remove self-doubt. From my experience, it comes down to devising different strategies because international batsmen are really sure of themselves and it’s tough to get them out. I have found that you need to think outside the box and also be aggressive as a fast bowler. While I generally let my bowling do the talking, I never shy away from a challenge and I will always try to assert my authority. Furthermore, from an individual point of view, I hope to keep learning new skills and getting smarter in terms of managing myself. My body is fine, however, it’s always important to conserve your energy because you need to have that extra zip when bowling to the best batsmen in the world.
Sport24 asked: How do you keep your feet on the ground with fame and fortune?
Kagiso Rabada: It’s honestly not very difficult for me to remain grounded owing to the type of person I am. I don’t believe in making a scene out of things and still like living a normal life and doing things that others my age would do. My approach to life is pretty simple: When you need to have a party, party and when you need to relax, relax. I assess the situation and see what I need to do because everyone is vulnerable and no one is invincible. My parents have played a huge role in my development and some of the people I have met since my career started, whom I have put my trust in, have helped me along the road. (In terms of being spoken of as a future Proteas captain in some circles) right now I’m focusing exclusively on my playing role at both domestic and international level. However, if people entrust me with leadership and captaincy in the future, then I will take it with both hands.
Sport24 asked: How do you enjoy touring the UK and what’s your favourite stop?
Kagiso Rabada: It’s nice experiencing the English crowds and culture. I also enjoyed playing county cricket for Kent last year. To be honest, I thought that I would learn more from my short playing stint in the UK, but I don’t regret the decision to play county cricket and forgo the IPL last season. During my time with Kent, the wickets were very flat and I guess I learnt to bowl on wickets which are low and have no pace. Those pitches sit up which is not ideal for a fast bowler, but it provided a good challenge. England has strong cricketing tradition, but the West Indies is my favourite travel destination. It’s a peaceful and relaxing place to visit. It was cool touring the Caribbean with the Proteas because it boasts a good cricketing history. As a quick, I identify with legendary ex-fast bowlers like Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, who were part of a golden generation for West Indies cricket. I love travelling, but when I am away from home, I miss South Africa and its diverse cultures.
Sport24 asked: How would you describe your music taste and sense of style?
Kagiso Rabada: My music taste is diverse and what I listen to depends on my mood. Being in my youth (Rabada is 22) you will find that hip hop features heavily on my playlist. However, I’m also into house music, drum and bass as well as some mellow jazz. I feel that there is no substitute for good music. I am also known to occasionally spit some rhymes, but rapping is more of a joke for me and it’s not something that I take too seriously. When it comes to my individual fashion sense, simple but stylish clothing is the order of the day because I’m not someone who is flashy or extravagant. Style and comfort is always a winning combination.
Previous Q&A chats:Rohan Janse van Rensburg