Kagiso Rabada in action against England at Newlands, Cape Town. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS
Kagiso Rabada in action against England at Newlands, Cape Town. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS

Kagiso Rabada may have finished as the leading wicket-taker in the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) but the Proteas speedster believes this will not count for much when he steams in against England this week.

He said the challenge for him and his Proteas teammates who did fairly well in the IPL was to repeat their performances when they play the 50-over world champions in the first of three Twenty20 internationals to be followed by the three ODIs.

The six-match contest will be played at Newlands in Cape Town and Boland Park in Paarl.

“I think the IPL was a great tournament. But in cricket‚ especially when you are playing on an international stage‚ you always have to repeat your performances on a constant basis‚” Rabada said on Monday, ahead of Friday’s first match at Newlands.

The 25-year-old Rabada was in his element at the IPL‚ taking an excellent 30 wickets in 17 matches at an average of 18.42 as his Delhi Capitals finished runners-up to the Mumbai Indians.

Rabada and Capitals and SA teammate Anrich Nortjé took a whopping 52 wickets between them‚ with the latter taking 22 wickets at 23.27 (16 matches) to end as the fourth-best bowler at the tournament.

Rabada finished three wickets ahead of Mumbai’s Jasprit Bumrah (15 matches).

Trent Boult, another Mumbai Indian player, finished third from the same number of matches as Bumrah, with Nortjé fourth with 22 wickets. Another Indian, Yuzvendra Chahal (21 wickets at 19.28 from 15 matches), rounded off the top-five list of wicket-takers.

But Rabada said all of this will count for nothing when he steams in at Newlands on Friday.

During the IPL‚ Rabada bowled really well to most of the English batters in the squad that is camping in a biosecure bubble environment at the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town.

“But it does not change the fact that whoever you play in every game you have to come back and you have to do the same thing. That’s something as cricketers we have to do.

“Cricket is a repetitive game and you have to repeat that in every game‚ so I guess that is the challenge‚ to see how well you can do, and that’s why we are playing‚ to test ourselves individually.”

While it will be the first Proteas outing since March‚ England have already hosted West Indies‚ Pakistan‚ Ireland and Australia during their home summer with all matches played in Manchester and Southampton.

All the England matches were played behind closed doors.

While the IPL was also played with no fans‚ Rabada said the tournament was still competitive. But he said the lack of noise from the stands has taken away a certain element of the game.

“I felt the crowd. [Even] without the crowd the competitiveness was [still] there‚ but the crowd obviously gives that extra bit of adrenalin‚ that bit of drama if you want to call it that way‚ or theatre.”

Fresh from a biosecure bubble environment at the IPL‚ Radaba does not mind being locked in again and said the strict nature of bubbles can take a toll on a player’s mental state.

“It can be quite tough [because] you can’t interact. You have basically lost your freedom.”

Rabada said he is grateful for the opportunity to keep earning money while many across the country have lost their income due to Covid-19-enforced lockdowns.

“It’s almost like a luxury prison we are in. But you just have to remind yourself that we are fortunate because many people are struggling at the moment and have lost their jobs.”

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