Kagiso Rabada is among a host of Proteas who will sprinkle a bit of stardust on the T20 Challenge this year. And the banter is in full swing on WhatsApp.
CAPE TOWN – Kagiso Rabada has played 12 T20 matches for the Highveld Lions since making his debut in 2014. In contrast, he has steamed in 35 times for the Delhi Daredevils and Delhi Capitals and in the IPL.
However, for the next two weeks Rabada will be back in the red of his hometown team in the T20 Challenge starting today in Durban.
“It feels great being back where it all started. The Lions have been my home since I was 13-years-old. I grew up in this system and it feels good to be playing with guys who I haven’t played with since my school days. I just want to contribute to a team that (has) always been really close to my heart,” Rabada said.
Rabada is among a host of Proteas who will sprinkle a bit of stardust on the T20 Challenge this year. In fact, it is only national captain Quinton de Kock and former skipper Faf du Plessis who have been granted leave from participating in the competition.
Furthermore, the likes of Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, Reeza Hendricks, Lutho Sipamla (all Lions), Anrich Nortje (Warriors), Kyle Verreynne, Janneman Malan, George Linde (all Cape Cobras), David Miller, Keshav Maharaj, Andile Phehlukwayo (all Dolphins), Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi, and Heinrich Klaasen (all Titans) will all be in action at Kingsmead over the coming days.
“The banter on our (Proteas) WhatsApp group is in full swing already,” Rabada said.
“The guys are always checking how their franchises are doing when we’re on tour. The banter is really good. ‘What are the Lions doing?’ ‘What are the Titans doing?’ ‘When last have the Cobras won something?’ So, the guys are really proud to represent their franchises and we’re really looking forward to having a crack at each other.”
It is not just provincial bragging rights that are at stake, but there is also the not so small matter of a T20 World Cup scheduled for India later this year. Convenor of selectors Victor Mpitsang and coach Mark Boucher will no doubt be a keeping a close eye on performances over the next fortnight, and also more importantly how an individual fits into the overall team plans of the Proteas.
An interesting conundrum is the dilemma over De Kock’s opening partner. Bavuma strode out with the captain during the England home T20 series, but with both being sent home to quarantine ahead of the now postponed Australia Tests it opened the way for Hendricks and Malan to get the innings under way in Pakistan.
The latter pair both put in couple of solid performances without setting the world alight, but it has left the Lions, in particular, with a conundrum. The Lions have previously paired Hendricks with young Ryan Rickelton, who was also in Pakistan as the back-up opener, with great success, leaving Bavuma to come in at No 3 followed by Van der Dussen.
But with Bavuma seemingly the Proteas’ first-choice T20 opener alongside De Kock, have Boucher and Mpitsang been in communication with Lions coach Wandile Gwavu?
“Those chats happen more so at the beginning of the season, but as the season progresses they become very minimal. I think the reason for that is that the national coach respects our way of working,“Gwavu said.
“We have our own ideas here at the Lions. We do want to help the national side, but we will play it as we see it. The communication does take place and I think Boucher and Vic will definitely respect that. We do stay in contact and let’s call it if they need a ‘favour’ about a certain player. But from our side we do it the Lions way.”
The competition kicked off with a double-header on Friday with the Titans facing the Knights (10am) before the Dolphins host the Cobras (2.30pm). The Lions open their campaign on Saturday against the Warriors (10am) before the Knights are again in action against the Dolphins (2:30pm).