Kagiso Rabada hopes for Test turnaround in Australia after 'disappointing' T20 World Cup

Kagiso Rabada has conceded that he “wasn’t up to scratch” at the T20 World Cup, where he finished as South Africa’s most expensive bowler, and with the fewest wickets among their frontline quicks. Rabada put the dip in performance down to fatigue, and said trying to push through the lethargy had the opposite effect to the one he hoped for.

“I am not one to make any excuses – I wasn’t up to scratch, I had a disappointing tournament,” he said ahead of South Africa’s departure for their three-match Test series in Australia. “I didn’t feel that great in terms of energy. I still tried my best but I felt like the harder I tried, it just wasn’t coming out.

“You can feel it in the intensity of your play. Your intensity is not where you want it to be, and it catches up with you over time. Playing international cricket, you want to be rather high-intensity more often than not.”

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Rabada has played in only 26 of South Africa’s 39 matches across formats so far this year, yet only Keshav Maharaj has bowled more overs than him. He also featured in 13 IPL games, but in no other T20 league. Rabada was also exempt from playing in any domestic first-class matches ahead of the Australia tour as part of his workload management. He agreed with that decision because he “felt like I needed to rest”.

Asked if he was worried about the volume of cricket he has played, Rabada replied in the affirmative. “It is a concern with the amount of cricket that’s being played. It needs to be managed,” he said. “There need to be plans to be made accordingly.”

CSA’s director of cricket Enoch Nkwe has held one-on-one meetings with the T20 World Cup playing group, and is expected to prepare a comprehensive report on the team’s failure to get out of the group stage and plot the way forward. One of the aspects of that report could well be about Rabada’s recent T20I form, as his overall performance across major tournaments also comes under the spotlight.

“If it’s happened twice [after the group-stage exit in 2021 too], it’s something that seriously needs to be considered,” Rabada said. “That’s what I have realised, and [the] management have realised as well. We need to come up with some plans – not just for me, but for all players.”

Part of the long-term plan was already made at the recent FTP negotiations, where CSA sacrificed three-match Test series for the next WTC cycle in favour of creating a consistent window for SA20, their new T20 league. That means that this Australia series is the last consisting of three games that South Africa will play until they host Australia in return in 2026, and the last they will play in Australia until at least 2027, until when the new FTP lasts.
It is likely that for much of the current squad, this is their last chance to continue South Africa’s successful run in Australia, where they have won their last three series: in 2008-09, 2012-13 and 2016-17. Rabada is the only quick who was part of the last success six years ago, when he took his fourth five-for in the series-opener in Perth.
He has since also been part of South Africa’s home-series win against Australia in 2017-18, when he successfully appealed a charge of making deliberate contact with Steven Smith, for which he was initially banned for two Tests. Rabada was found guilty of conduct contrary to the spirit of the game for his over-zealous wicket-taking celebrations, and believes Australia brought out the strongest fight in him.

“As much as the nerves and passion comes in, it’s a game of cricket. It’s not as intimidating as people make it out to be”

Rabada doesn’t want his side to be overawed against Australia

“When you are playing a quality opposition, it can get the best out of you. It’s about letting it happen,” he said. “With me, it’s always come out against Australia. It’s about not backing down to a challenge. If they want to come hard, you stand up to it. That’s what competition is.”

But his message to the rest of his pack is not to get overawed. “It’s a game of cricket. As much as the nerves and passion comes in – which is incredibly important – it’s a game of cricket,” he said. “It’s not as intimidating as people make it out to be. It can sound much more intimidating than it actually is.”

And the same can be said for Australian surfaces. They are famed for their pace and bounce, but Rabada remarked that he was “not sure what to expect” after Australia declared on 598 for 4 against West Indies in their season-opening Test in Perth; he hopes they will be bowler-friendly.

“In Australia, you get some bounce. They are good wickets, but you generally get a bit of nip,” he said. “It can swing at times, but not too much. The bounce and the pace is your ally. But at the same time, they are good wickets to bat on because the bounce is so true. I am excited to play some cricket, and to test myself.”

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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