Of the many ways in which Kagiso Rabada’s worth to South Africa’s cause could be measured — wickets taken, bowling average, five or 10-wicket-hauls claimed, replica shirts sold — one stands out.
It’s that Cricket South Africa didn’t flinch at hiring Dali Mpofu, one of the country’s most high profile, and thus most expensive, Senior Counsels in March last year to fight the fast bowler’s corner in his appeal against what would have amounted to a ban.
Rabada had landed in trouble for shoulder-charging or shoulder-brushing — it depends on who you ask — Steve Smith at St George’s Park after dismissing the then Australia captain, and his punishment would have triggered a suspension.
Mpofu emerged from his pinstriped world, got Rabada off the hook, and normal service resumed for unarguably the biggest star to shine on South African cricket in recent years.
Tall, athletic and raspingly competitive, Rabada would seem to have been born a fast bowler. But, until he went to high school, he was more interested in playing rugby for a living. From there, things happened fast.
He was the jewel in what became South Africa’s crown of triumph at the 2014 under-19 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, where he took 6/25 in the semi-final against Australia and finished as his team’s highest wicket-taker with 14 at an average of 10.28.
Rabada made his senior international debut eight months later in a T20 against Australia in Adelaide, and a year after that he been capped in all three formats.
The first of his nine five-wicket hauls in Test cricket came in his fifth match in whites, against England at the Wanderers in January 2016, and before that series was over he had two more and with it a haul of 13/144 in Centurion — the first of four 10-wicket efforts.
Rabada would seem to have it all: pace, athleticism, intelligence, aggression, and more than a touch of batting ability. If he can’t win a senior World Cup for South Africa, no-one can.