Fierce. Precise. Powerful. More often than not, Kagiso Rabada has been a force to be reckoned with in recent times. His rise to becoming one of the most feared pacers worldwide has been meteoric. The exciting South African talent, who regularly bowls in the 140 kmph range, is making his presence felt in the PBKS unit now, and how!

Kickstarting sports with rugby

His journey to becoming one of the top in his profession has been a steady one, and this is that story. His love for sports began with a Rugby stint in school. During the off season for rugby, he started playing cricket too. However, there came a point when he had to choose between rugby and cricket, and he chose the latter, and thus the game became richer.

He was fourteen when he started playing cricket for his school, and game after game, proved to be a great asset to the team. In an interview with The Cricket Monthly, the Punjab Kings pacer’s father, Dr. Mpho Rabada, spoke about feeling privileged enough to attend 90% of his son’s performances between the ages of 14 to 18.

“Kagiso was 14 years old and playing in a time-cricket match at school, and his team were struggling to take the last wicket," the proud father remembers. "He was given the ball. He ran in and bowled the fastest delivery I had ever seen at that point. The stumps went cartwheeling and his team won. It was a stunning moment, the best I'd seen."

Cricket chose Rabada

In an exclusive interview with the Punjab Kings, he spoke about when he started taking cricket seriously. “When I was about 16, I decided cricket is the one I'm going to pursue. I loved playing all my sports. There's training camps and provincial camps and then also if you were selected and they thought you were good enough, there would be national camps as well,” the pacer said.

The little wins mattered - getting picked for the camps, appreciation in provincial cricket, and more - they were all encouragement for young Rabada to keep soaring higher. “I found myself just getting picked for all those camps. That's when things got a lot more serious,” Rabada confesses. Well, it does look like cricket chose him.

“Well, I always had the belief in myself but the first time that I really made a huge mark in provincial cricket was when we played an U-17 national week and there I picked up "Bowler of the Tournament," I was voted to be the best,” the ace pacer revealed.

International debut

As a 19-year-old, Kagiso Rabada made his international debut in a T20I match against Australia at Adelaide. “That was the first game I played for my country and I wanted to basically show myself to the world and despite doing it in Australia, I remember I had no nerves and I was just free and all I wanted to do was just bowl fast,” the bowler recalled.

He did not pick up any wickets on his T20I debut. However, his ODI debut was a different story. Playing Bangladesh in their home soil, Rabada ran through their batting line-up, finishing with 6/16, the best bowling figures in ODIs on debut. “My ODI debut was in Dhaka and I didn't plan it but I got 6 wickets. That was amazing,” a smiling Rabada said.

“Then the most prized one was playing Test match cricket. For me, I view it as the pinnacle of cricket. I remember it was in Mohali against India and I remember it vividly,” said Rabada, who picked Virat Kohli as his first Test wicket in this game.

Carving a niche

While Rabada did get more assistance back home on South African soil, he toiled hard to make his bowling count, displaying stamina to become a trusted Test cricket bowler. At home in January 2016, he played against England in a game with South Africa missing both Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn. Stepping up, Rabada picked 13 wickets for 144, becoming the youngest South African to take 10 wickets in a Test match.

His workload only increased with a county deal in 2016 with Kent, followed by the Indian Premier League appearances in 2017. After missing the 2018 season due to an injury, Rabada returned, more experienced and skilled in 2019. In 2020, the fiery South African won the Purple Cap with 30 wickets in his kitty.

The making of a King

Kagiso Rabada was picked up by the Punjab Kings in the Tata Indian Premier League 2022 mega auction for 9.25 Cr, making him the team's most expensive bowler of the season. So far, he has picked up 17 wickets in nine matches and is in tight contention for the Purple Cap once again.

Rabada spoke about his experience in the camp so far. “Punjab, I actually like the city. It's quite cool and it's quite calm. I just enjoyed watching the auction and also I enjoy being around this team. I think there are quality individuals in the team. I really enjoy what the team stands for and now we're here, I can see the guys have bonded really well and I'm happy to be here,” he said.

“I'm looking forward to just being involved with this team because with every team, you make memories and we'll certainly want to make good memories,” he further added.

We can speak for the Sher Squad when we say Rabada definitely has given us many memorable moments to look back on and cherish. We do hope to see this man in the Punjab Kings outfit for a long, long time to come.