SOUTHAMPTON: Kagiso Rabada believes South Africa must put their off-field problems to one side as they look to revive their World Cup campaign against the West Indies at Southampton on Monday.
A tough opening week in the round-robin group phase has left the Proteas with little margin for error after three straight defeats by England, Bangladesh and India left their semi-final hopes hanging by a thread.
South Africa also saw senior fast bowler Dale Steyn ruled out of the World Cup through injury without bowling a ball.
Meanwhile, a row has broken out over whether South Africa’s selectors were right to reject star A.B. de Villiers’s offer to come out of international retirement for the World Cup, with some arguing the star batsman had simply left it too late to make himself available.
“There’s just been a lot happening off the field and we are just looking to clear that out of our heads,” said Rabada, the leader of the Proteas’ attack in Steyn’s absence.
“But it has been enjoyable,” added Rabada, whose fellow quick Lungi Ngidi is an injury doubt for Monday’s match at the Rose Bowl. “It’s exciting. This is what you want. It has been enjoyable but it has come with its challenges in terms of our team.”
While yet to hit top gear himself at the World Cup, Rabada has been encouraged by the performances so far of fellow fast bowlers such as England’s Jofra Archer, Australia’s Mitchell Starc and the West Indies’ Oshane Thomas.
“They are all phenomenal bowlers. I enjoy watching other bowlers bowl. It’s nice to see other people do well, but not against us,” said Rabada jokingly. “We all have our aspirations. We want to achieve certain goals. I don’t think it puts any pressure on me [to perform].
“I know exactly what I want to get out of the game. When you admire other sportsmen, it can inspire you.”
Meanwhile, West Indies assistant coach Roddy Estwick wants the current generation of Caribbean fast bowlers to carve out their own place in cricket history rather than just be compared to past greats.
West Indies’ pace attack of Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell, Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite have already made their presence felt at the World Cup, sparking memories of years gone by.
When West Indies won the first two World Cups, in 1975 and 1979, they did so with some of the best fast bowlers cricket has known in Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Joel Garner.
“We can’t keep looking back,” Estwick told reporters on Sunday. “We’ve got to respect the past but this group of bowlers knows they’ve got to find their own identity,” he added.
They are doing a good job of that this World Cup, with the West Indies’ quicks routing Pakistan for 105 on the way to an opening win before reducing Australia to 38 for four, only for the world champions to recover to 288 and a narrow win.
“Everybody was saying teams were going to make 360 or 380 at this tournament,” said Estwick.
“We bowled both teams out for under 300 so we are very happy with the way the bowlers have executed,” he added.
“We are playing our way, we are playing the way that works for us. That’s aggressive cricket with a smile on our face.”