Updated: January 28, 2016 12:00:34 am
Even before Kagiso Rabada single-handedly won South Africa the Centurion Test against England on Tuesday, South Africa had already lost the four-match series and its No 1 ranking. 2015 was a nightmare for the country, which managed to win only one out of its nine tests. Even its once-indomitable record on foreign soil was consumed by the many cracks encountered on the spin-friendly pitches in India.
Simply for his amazing feat with the ball, 13 wickets in the match, Rabada’s is a story of renewed hope amidst imminent ruin. Moreover, the fact that he’s black, still all of 20, and bowls at a rapid pace, makes it a captivating tale of inspiration.
Only two other South African bowlers had taken 13 wickets in a Test before. The one before Rabada was Makhaya Ntini, the first black South African to play international cricket. Unlike Ntini, South Africa’s new pace sensation isn’t quite an out-and-out hero to young black kids. He comes from a much more privileged background. But even if they can’t relate to him, the next line of black talent will see themselves in Rabada.
Some 20 years ago, Ali Bacher — the man who shepherded South Africa’s return from sporting isolation — had predicted that half the team would be black within a decade. While that still seems like a pipe-dream, there’s reason to believe. Parallel to Rabada’s rise has been the emergence of Temba Bavuma, the first specialist black South African batsman, who has begun to provide much-needed solidarity to the middle order and has a century against England. The U-19 team that began the defence of their World Cup crown — which Rabada played a huge role in clinching two years ago — has a good mix of coloured cricketers. Maybe it’s a sign the Rainbow Nation is finally embracing colour on the cricket field. For now, in Rabada, South Africa have found the man who seems primed to spearhead not just this revolution but also their pace attack.
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