Reality rocks Kagiso Rabada

Kagiso Rabada of South Africa delivers the ball during day 1 of the 2nd Test match between India and South Africa at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium on October 10, 2019 in Pune, India.
Kagiso Rabada of South Africa delivers the ball during day 1 of the 2nd Test match between India and South Africa at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium on October 10, 2019 in Pune, India.
Image: Isuru Sameera Peris/Gallo Images

You know things have changed when even the team media officer asks the tough questions‚ as Kagiso Rabada discovered on Tuesday.

Maybe Rabada didn’t hear the query clearly; there was a significant amount of audible background noise during his one-on-one interview.

Or maybe the question‚ utterly legitimate though it was‚ stung: “A lot has been said about India’s seam attack making the pitch look a lot easier [to bowl on] than South Africa’s. How did you experience that pitch?”

Rabada seemed to take a verbal step backward before replying: “Sorry?”

The question was repeated‚ and Rabada found an answer: “[India] got the ball to reverse and they bowled well as a collective.

“Their whole attack put pressure on us in every single aspect.

“Their spinners bowled well and when the ball was reversing their seamers could exploit that.

“We didn’t really get the ball to reverse and that’s a major weapon of ours.”

The pitch at issue was at Pune‚ where India won the second men’s Test by an innings and 137 runs with a day to spare on Sunday — their biggest ever success over South Africa.

That followed the home side winning the first Test‚ in Visakhapatnam‚ by 203 runs.

Both surfaces offered a fair deal to seamers‚ spinners and indeed batters.

But India’s Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav have taken 14 wickets in the series and Rabada and Vernon Philander only six‚ a difference not solely explained by the fact that the Indians have had one more innings in the field.

As expected‚ slow poisoners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been the most lethal bowlers on view — they’ve claimed 24 of the 40 wickets India have taken — but a key difference between the teams has been India’s seam superiority.

South Africa have yet to bowl out India in an innings. In three attempts they’ve taken only 16 wickets.

“It’s never nice to lose‚ especially in the manner we’re losing right now‚” Rabada said.

“We’re going through a transition period. Our team is fresh and young‚ so the best thing we can do is look at where we can improve and remember our strengths and build on them.

“We need to challenge ourselves to execute what we have learnt.

“We’ve been put under immense pressure. I don’t know if we can be put more pressure than that. That can hopefully produce something special in years to come.”

India have been in the field for 40 deliveries more than South Africa‚ but it seemed pertinent to ask whether the challenge in the third Test in Ranchi‚ which starts on Saturday‚ would be more mental or physical.

“From a physical point of view we need to execute our skills and from a mental point of view we need to believe we can do it in certain situations. It’s a balance we’re working on.”

The suits might accuse the media officer of committing the offence of journalism‚ and it’s difficult for the South Africans to arrive at useful answers while they are being dealt their hiding.

But‚ for now‚ they need to make sure they ask themselves the right questions.

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