After crashing out of the World Cup with a limp loss to Pakistan by 49 runs on Sunday, South African captain Faf du Plessis has revealed that he and the team management had tried to stop ace fast baller Kagiso Rabada from playing this season of the IPL. This, he said, was strongly recommended in order to keep Rabada fresh for this World Cup.
Hanging from the thread of ambiguity for 18 days since they lost a third straight fixture, South Africa’s fate was finally sealed against a resurgent Pakistan who put up a backs-to-the-wall performance riding on Comeback Kid Haris Sohail's sublime 89.
Du Plessis’ disclosure came soon after his team’s defeat and in response to a question on whether Rabada’s unmissable lack of potency on field was down to fatigue. The fast bowler after all, has bowled 303 overs in all competitions since the start of the year, 47 of which came at the IPL.
Team captain Plessis admitted that there have been fair amount of considerations to get Rabada back home midway to allow him to rest – which wasn’t to be – since the fast pacer was in India till the end of April. During his stint, Rabada bagged 25 wickets at 14.72 from 12 games for Delhi Capitals.
"I don't think we'll ever have a perfect answer for that because he's probably biting on too much," du Plessis said on Sunday. "But we did try and get him not to go to the IPL; to try and stay and get fresh. That wasn't the case of -- and then when he went there, we were like, let's try and get him back halfway through the IPL because it's important, not just for him, but a few other players.
After picking up a back injury during the tournament, he was eventually withdrawn by Cricket South Africa as a precautionary step.
Plessis said that he flagged the issue even before IPL started because three-format players end up playing perennially, without any scope for resting and often at the cost of personal well-being
"So I don't think it's not necessarily just the IPL, but it was important for a few guys to rest; and the fact that they didn't meant that they -- you know, they came into the tournament not fresh. That's not an excuse; that's just a fact. And KG is -- you can see that his pace is probably a little bit down from where he normally is,” he added.
Not playing up the whole thing too much, Plessis explained that this is a challenge his team will have to face all the time since it’s innate to the game. “You can't unfortunately go back with the national side and say to KG: Listen, you're going to rest for the next two series'. He's such a big player for the team; it's a difficult thing to do.” He did, however, accept that a rotation system with a clutch of bowlers in the wings on stand-by is necessary.
“I mean, that was the plan with Anrich [Nortje] in the back-up and pipeline, and he got injured, as well. So therefore all our pace is gone and there's so much responsibility on KG to carry that load of being the lone fast bowler,” he said.
Rabada, who was expected to shoulder the burden of leading South Africa's beleaguered attack in his first World Cup, has been debilitated under the crushing workload. In six innings at the World Cup so far, he has returned only six wickets at an average of 50.83, a far cry from his ODI career average of 27.74. Even on Sunday, Du Plessis summoned talisman Rabada to burst open the middle order but Sohail instead drove him to frustration with an uppercut six.
Du Plessis, however, reckoned that this World Cup no-show was only the first stumbling block in a Rabada's stellar career and backed the "great bowler" to fix his issues and rediscover his fire.
“KG is trying,” the captain said emphatically, adding that there are many other players who grapple with issues of keeping up. “You haven't started the tournament well; and therefore, your confidence has taken a bit of a hit, and it just rolls on. It's such a snowball effect that your performance, you open your eyes, and you're doing the same thing again," du Plessis said.
"At the moment, he is feeling like he needs to do something, but it's not happening for him, and therefore, you're not seeing that same intensity when he bowls. Or not bowls. Or when he celebrates a wicket or when he's going through after the over bat to his mark," he added.