Image courtesy of: Zimbio
At the age of just 21, South Africa pace bowler Kagiso Rabada has already made a name for himself in international cricket.
Not only does he know it, but Test captain Faf du Plessis is also well aware of just how lethal the Johannesburg native can be.
Given the success he has had with the ball, Rabada has risen up the ranks and is now considered to be the Proteas’ pace spearhead.
With that in mind, he will definitely be an instrumental part of the squad in all three formats during South Africa’s tour of New Zealand.
“He’s the real deal,” Du Plessis said. “He’s someone who’s going to be, injury permitting, just as good as Dale and Morne. He’s going to be leading South Africa’s attack for a very long time. From a captain’s perspective, he’s a guy in all formats who has the skills to do whatever is required.
“If it is to keep the game quiet, he’s got the skill to do that; if it’s to shut the game down, his yorkers are fantastic. Bounce and pace are what he’s got, so it will be nice see what he can do in these conditions. He hasn’t played in New Zealand so this will be a nice learning opportunity for him.”
While New Zealand will have to be aware of the threat that Rabada poses, Du Plessis also sent them a warning about a shift in the balance of the South African team, whereby a lot more players have established themselves as all-rounders.
“I feel we are a team now full of all-rounders, with a lot of bowlers who can bat,” he said. “The last 15-16 games it’s looked like our team is very well-balanced because the young guys bring a longer batting lineup.”
South Africa’s tour will begin with a one-off Twenty20 International in Auckland on Friday, but Du Plessis conceded that he is looking forward to the five-match ODI series that follows as South Africa are still looking for revenge after New Zealand beat them off the penultimate ball in the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup.
“Honestly, something like that you’ll always carry it with you,” the Pretoria native added. “As a team we’ve put it behind us, but the emotions of that day will always be with us. It’s not a bad thing.”
While Du Plessis would have preferred having a three-match Twenty20 series, he pointed out that the ODI series would be a perfect way to prepare for the Champions Trophy in June.
“New Zealand have great energy and they’re very competitive, especially in the fielding department,” he said. “You always feel their presence, and that pressure and presence is something you want to practice as much as possible before a big tournament.
With the ODI series starting just two days after the one-off Twenty20 International, Du Plessis insisted that it is imperative the Proteas stay focused, especially as they are now the top ranked ODI side in the world, which they achieved by whitewashing Sri Lanka 5-0.
“We usually get a week before the first international, but this is a much quicker turnaround,” Du Plessis said. “It’s important we deal with that. We’ve already spoken about no excuses because it’s easy to rock up to a low-key game and almost drift through it … we need to start the tour tomorrow, make use of the facilities and get ready for that T20.
“New Zealand has an amazing record at home, just as we’ve done over the last year. That’s a nice challenge for us to beat a team that’s playing well but also their record is really, really good in New Zealand.”