South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada is set to play a starring role when the Proteas take on England in three T20Is and three one-day internationals over the next two weeks.
Having finished the IPL as leading wicket-taker, Rabada is back in international action and will be up against a formidable England batting line-up when the T20 series begins on Friday, live on Sky Sports Cricket.
However, it is South Africa’s decision not to take a knee during the series that has dominated discussions in a country where issues of race are as poignant as anywhere across the globe.
In an interview with Sky Sports’ Ian Ward, Rabada gave his views on the Black Lives Matter movement, taking a knee and whether progress is being made on such matters…
Kagiso, you’ve been very vocal on a very important subject, that of Black Lives Matter. How much discussion has there been in the dressing room about it?
We have had open discussions about it. It is a process that is going to take quite some time, I don’t think it is something that gets resolved in a year. It’s an ongoing process that needs to take place. In the same vein, it is not like we need to come into the environment and all be activists; it’s just about engaging that conversation when it matters the most and also for people to feel comfortable within an environment.
I mean the world is moving into unity, if you want to call it that, so people needed to feel like they are being included in an environment, no matter what colour they are. Obviously right now there is the Black Lives Matter movement and a lot of emphasis has been put on this particular subject and, fair enough, it does make sense. The movement does make sense but it is not about marginalising any other colour or person, it is about standing up for something that you feel is right. So honest conversations have been happening in our camp and I think it is a move in the right direction to seeing a better future, especially in South African cricket.
Would you say those conversations have been productive?
One hundred per cent productive. When you do chat about something and it is not very easy about such touchy subjects, especially when people actually open up. We had a camp in Skukuza before the IPL and a lot of people actually opened up. That’s the sort of environment that we have created as a team, an honest environment. It’s about addressing an issue and the only way that you’re going to address an issue is if people actually come out and speak.
Probably in the past, people didn’t feel they could do that and it sort of becomes like a snowball effect then at the end of it all, it just explodes. Like I said, I think it’s an ongoing process that needs to be taken care of in the years to come. It’s something that needs to be sustainable.
Have those honest conversations surprised you, pleased you or both?
Both. It does surprise you because it is almost like looking at things from a different perspective. One person sees something one way, another person sees it a different way and you have to work towards a middle ground and work towards something that is as fair as possible, something that makes sense. So, yes, it has surprised me and it has excited me because it can only do good. No one is here to cause any harm, everyone just wants to be given a fair shout so I think it’s exciting because things are progressing towards a more stable environment.
During the England vs West Indies series, both sets of players took a knee. Michael Holding was very disappointed, to put it mildly, when they stopped. Would you like to be able to take a knee?
I’ve expressed my views. Taking a knee, I haven’t had the chance to do it but if I really felt like I really needed to then I would. At the moment, I don’t feel like I really need to, just being honest. I’ve expressed my views in the press, on Twitter but I don’t really try to harp on too much about it. Black lives matter and that’s the end of it. I think that’s enough.
Do you think, with the conversations you’re having, that progress is being made, albeit slowly?
Ever since this whole movement has come about, it’s basically shaken the whole world. It started in America, and it’s also kind of caused a disruption in the world in a sense of injustice. People feel they are not being treated the same as someone else. That’s what it has actually done, especially on social media, it has allowed people to just express their views and now you have everyone on social media expressing their views on such a topic.
Ever since the movement has come out, it has caused massive disruption, although it is something that is going to have to keep being refreshed over time. Right now it’s just talk, now the talk needs to be implemented into action and I guess that is going to take some time. But the awareness is most definitely there.
Turning attention to what might happen on the field, South Africa have had some problems off the field with Covid, practice sessions being cancelled for various reasons. What sort of shape are the side in to take on England in this series?
I think we’ve had a good training camp over the last week. We didn’t have one [practice match] because of the rain but I think the guys are in a relatively good space; a few of us having been playing in the IPL so we have been playing some cricket. The really exciting thing about us is that we’re really young and it is exciting to see how a team is going to shape up in the coming years. I’m really excited about that.
All our big players, South African greats, have left and it was never going to be easy to rebuild but we are in that process of rebuilding. But I’m thoroughly enjoying it, I love the vibrancy and the youth that has been injected into the squad. Players are just willing to learn.
S Africa vs England
November 27, 2020, 3:30pm
You had an outstanding IPL. What was that experience like?
The bubble, you can’t leave your room… but we were there for cricket. There were some things that we did to compensate for being locked up in a hotel, it did get challenging at times. But, at the end of the day, we were there for cricket. The cricket was really competitive, it was world class and I think that’s what got us through, that and each other’s company. I think the same thing will happen in this bubble.
Did you find anything new to do, any new interests inside that bubble?
Not particularly, I just had a lot of coffee!
With the challenges of bowling in T20 – either IPL or international T20 – what have you learnt over the last 12 months that you’ve got to do different as the batsmen keeping throwing different, more powerful challenges at you?
The game of cricket just doesn’t get easy. It just never seems to get easier but that is the beauty of it, you’re constantly challenged. Bowlers are constantly coming up with plans, batters are constantly coming up with plans and England have a quality batting line-up. But our bowlers, we’re quite amped for the challenge, we know it’s going to be difficult but it’s exciting.
You’re playing against some really good players and we’re expecting some hard cricket but we’re excited. I guess you don’t want to overthink it really. At the end of the day you’re playing cricket; there are lots of tactics, fielding positions, different amounts of variations that you can bowl but I think trying to keep it as simple as possible, you want to think more along those lines.
Newlands is one of the great cricket venues, it’s South Africa against England, sadly there is no crowd, but are you looking forward to it?
I’m thoroughly looking forward to it. England are a good team and I think they’re probably the best team to challenge this young team of ours. Some guys who haven’t played much are going to get a taste of quality international cricket at this fantastic venue. No crowds, of course, but I think the competitiveness will be there – this is international cricket. Most of the time, even when there is a crowd, you kind of forget there is a crowd and you just focus on what you have to do so let’s see how we go.
Watch every game of England’s white-ball tour of South Africa live on Sky Sports Cricket, starting with the first T20 from 3.30pm on Friday.