Kagiso Rabada’s recent ascent to the summit of the International Cricket Council (ICC) one-day bowling rankings may have surprised some but not Proteas legend Makhaya Ntini.
Ntini has been following Rabada’s progress for years and the 22-year-old’s development and maturity has impressed the game’s elder statesman.
"A few years ago we started hearing stories that there was a talented‚ young and quick bowler at the Lions‚" Ntini said.
"As time went by he started getting game time at franchise level. The early signs were there for everyone to see.
"I am happy that he is fulfilling his undoubted potential and he has managed to reach the top of the ODI rankings. It feels good to see another black South African bowler doing well at that level of the game."
Ntini said while Rabada’s achievement is commendable‚ he must be consistent to be able to stay there for a sustained period. "I know it is difficult to get to that level and the most important thing for him now is to stay there for some time.
"He must play consistently in the coming months like he has been doing recently.
"He took his opportunity in the absence of Dale Steyn and he is going to be an important player for us during the Champions Trophy. We have AB de Villiers as the No1-ranked batsman in the format‚ Rabada as the No1-ranked bowler and the rest of the players must complement them‚" Ntini said.
The other man who never doubted Rabada’s prodigious talent is Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana‚ who has worked with him from an early age.
"I am not surprised at all that he has managed to achieve something this special‚" he said.
"The only thing that I did not expect is how soon he has done it. He is a special player who has a bright future in the game and hopefully he stays grounded and injury-free in the coming years.
"I have known him since he was about 15 during my days with the under-19s and we knew he was a natural talent and was definitely one for the future. I am happy for him that he has climbed to the top of the ODI bowling rankings because he is one player who is always willing to learn and improve on his weaknesses," Toyana said.
"He is representing the country very well and I am sure he is going to be important for us in the Champions Trophy."
Rabada is the youngest bowler to be ranked No1 since Pakistan’s Saqlain Mushtaq in 1998 and has overtaken Imran Tahir‚ who has dropped to second place.