'IPL will encourage Rabada to raise his game'
International cricket will remain Kagiso Rabada's number one priority even after he secured a massive IPL deal, which has made him an overnight millionaire. The 21-year-old fast bowler was picked up for INR 5 crore (USD 750,000 approx) by Delhi Daredevils, an amount of almost ten million Rand, which may change his life financially but will not impact his focus for South Africa, at least not if his father has anything to do with it.
"I am happy for him and supportive of him reaching his goals. His future can't be summed up by bagging an IPL contract but more by longevity in the game at the highest possible level," Dr Mpho Rabada, Kagiso's father, told ESPNcricinfo. "His successful inclusion is one of the key significant milestones in his career. I think it will encourage him to raise his game and more importantly apply the skills in the national team. The national team is the pride and dream of KG [Rabada], thus remaining very important."
Rabada has already proved he is willing to put the national team first, after he opted not to enter the IPL auction last year and chose a county stint with Kent instead. "He came and spoke to me and Gordon Parsons (Lions' bowling coach) and we decided that the main thing he needed to focus on was improving his skills," Geoffrey Toyana, Rabada's coach at the Lions franchise said about the bowler's county stint last year. "And he knew it would be good preparation for the England tour that's coming up."
South Africa play four Tests against England in July, after the Champions Trophy, and Rabada saw last year as the ideal time to get experience in those conditions. He knew that aiming to play county cricket in England this year, immediately before the series, would probably not be possible because of a narrow time-frame. Despite interest from the IPL, Rabada decided he needed to put personal development first, certain the chance for an IPL deal would come in the near future. "He felt that he was not ready last year and we were supportive of the decision after deliberations but now it has finally happened," Rabada's father said.
Rabada's first IPL will follow immediately after South Africa's current tour to New Zealand, which concludes with three Tests in March, and will be cut short by preparations for the Champions Trophy. CSA is understood to be calling its players back on May 7. That means Rabada will have gone straight from a tour of Australia to a home series against Sri Lanka, to a visit to New Zealand, to the IPL and to England with precious little time off before beginning another summer. Rabada is only 21 and there will be fears of burnout, but Toyana believes he is strong.
"KG is an athlete. He has a good, clean bowling action and so far, touch wood, he has not had any injuries," Toyana said. "It will always be important for him to watch where he plays and how much he plays but I am not too worried about him. He knows himself and his body and he will know if it's becoming too much."
As for the money, no one is quite sure what Rabada will do with it yet. His love of fashion, music and a newly acquired driver's license may lead to speculation that the bowler could use at least some of it to spoil himself but Toyana has his doubts. "He is smart kid, so I'll say he will probably look at making some investments," he said. "I don't think he will spend it on anything silly and he has his dad as a mentor."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent