Rabada's Kent spell confirmed
Kagiso Rabada has signed to play for Kent for four weeks in this year's county season, subject to receiving an NOC, encompassing six T20s, two one-day games and one first-class match. ESPNcricinfo has confirmed that Rabada will join the Division Two county, who did not sign an overseas player last year, after South Africa's ODI tri-series in West Indies, which ends on June 26.
"After the World T20, he has to come back, rest and get strong. And then he decided he wants to play county cricket this year because he is not sure when he will get the opportunity to do it again," an insider told ESPNcricinfo. "He wants to play in the IPL one day but for his own career, he thought a county stint would benefit him at this time."
Rabada had been expected to pursue a county deal after opting not to go into the IPL auction this year, as part of his own plan of progression. Many counties had already agreed their overseas signings for the coming season but he was linked with Durham before joining Kent. In announcing the signing, Kent chairman George Kennedy said they had "been hugely impressed" by Rabada's performances against England.
He finished the leading wicket-taker in the Tests, despite not playing the first match, and picked up another nine in four ODIs. Rabada said: "I will play hard and try my best. I want to learn from the experience - particularly bowling in different conditions. Most of all I am looking forward to enjoying the experience."
Rabada's decision could also be an advantage for South Africa, who are due to tour England in 2017 - first for the Champions Trophy and then for a four-Test series. "The nice thing for him is that South Africa will be touring there next year," Faf du Plessis, South Africa's T20 captain said. "He hasn't bowled with the Dukes ball, he hasn't played in those conditions and I think its massively important for a young guy to go and play because you basically play every second day. You learn a lot about traveling and playing."
But du Plessis warned that Rabada's workload will need to be managed. "The key for him is not to bowl too much when he is over there. If you are playing in county cricket, the overseas bowlers can come back three feet shorter," du Plessis joked, although he conceded that a month in county cricket it would be less of a strain on Rabada than a full IPL.
"In the IPL, you are going to bowl a lot. You are playing 18 or 19 T20 games and practising every day. You bowl a lot," du Plessis said. "In county cricket, someone can have a look and monitor his overs a little bit better. It's about not over-bowling him in this part of his career."
Given that the bulk of Rabada's county stint will be in the shortest format, he is likely to have enough time off, something even South Africa will look to give him in the build up to the World T20. "It's going to be key for a young guy to stay injury-free," du Plessis said. "It's going to be the challenge of the next five years but we are also looking at it now. Leading up to the World T20, we will give him some rest over the next five games."
Rabada may not play in all five home internationals but, when he does, du Plessis is confident he will make an impact. Since his debut in November 2014 to date, Rabada has played eight T20s and improved in each one. "Every game that he has played, he has gotten better," du Plessis said. "When he played his first T20, you could see he was still unsure of what he was trying to do and then the last game we played in India, it was like he had played 50 or 60 games, with the experience he gained in that time."
Rabada enjoyed one of the best returns of that match, when he took 1 for 18 in four overs to ensure South Africa sealed the series 2-0. "The great thing about KG is that he always wants to improve, he is always asking questions and as a captain that's great because you know a player wants to improve. I am very happy with where he is at," du Plessis said.
"He doesn't think he is the finished article. He has got such a great head on his shoulders. He wants to go there to get used to those conditions and be a better player after that. And then he is so young, he's still got lots of years to play in the IPL."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent