Johannesburg – The Proteas plan to persevere for the time being with pace sensation Kagiso Rabada bolstering the cause in all three international formats.
National selection convener Linda Zondi confirmed as much in an interview with Sport24 here this week, during the Cricket South Africa double celebration of 25 years of unity and the annual CSA Awards banquet.
Rabada, only recently turned 21, broke records at the latter event by winning as many as six categories, including being youngest ever winner of the coveted SA Player of the Year laurel.
It has become common among several major cricketing powers for certain fast bowlers to be specifically earmarked for one or two rather than all three of the formats in order to preserve their freshness on an increasingly hectic international treadmill.
But Zondi says that considering his extraordinary youthfulness, they do not yet wish to limit his activity or education by pulling him out of either of the limited-overs (50-overs and Twenty20) arenas; “KG” has already shown extraordinary progress across the board in SA kits.
Instead, his workload will be assessed on a series-by-series and game-by-game basis.
“I think that moving forward, we may shift closer toward a situation of (identifying) certain players for certain formats, but you also need to feel confident in your back-up stocks and so on.
“For the moment our feeling is that he still has plenty of development to do as a fast bowler and player generally.
“He cannot yet be branded a master of any format, of course … right now we are seeing pure, raw talent and he’s doing very well.
“We are content at present to see him playing all formats, learning the varying requirements: the key is really to manage him cleverly.
“For instance, we were happy to release him recently to go and play some county cricket (for Kent), as another example of seeking long-term benefits for the Proteas and helping him gain further knowledge and skills.”
The wisdom of that move is reflected by the fact that in the middle of 2017, South Africa play an unusually lengthy spell of cricket across the formats in England, including the ICC Champions Trophy and full bilateral hostilities with four Tests for the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy – a chance for SA to recapture it from the hosts – the highlight.
Zondi said he felt “the sky is the limit” for Rabada: a view shared by many critics although there are understandable fears that the young tearaway will be overbowled, and perhaps also over-exploited as an obvious poster figure for transformation.
The latter perception will hardly have been altered by the announcement on Tuesday that CSA is to introduce racial targets at national level, even if Rabada already seems so way above any need to be branded some kind of politically opportune presence in the Proteas’ ranks – he positively screams “merit”.
Zondi added: “We are genuinely keen to ensure that he delivers in the (long run) on the huge talent we perceive that he has – again, I stress the challenge is so strongly about managing him. That is our priority.
“We want to see him performing consistently for South Africa over the course of at least the next 10 years or thereabouts.
“Let’s not forget that the time will come when current (stalwarts) like the Steyns and Philanders will be slowly phasing out of the scene; Kagiso is certainly one for the future.”
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