Russell Domingo, the South Africa coach, believes Kagiso Rabada could be the next Dale Steyn as the young fast-bowling charge begins a huge summer in South Africa’s opening One-Day International against England on Wednesday (May 24) at Headingley.
South Africa will miss the services of Steyn for the series, as well as the Champions Trophy and the Test matches that follow, as the paceman continues to rehabilitate from shoulder surgery.
The two sides are set to meet in three matches on Wednesday, Saturday and Monday, forming ideal preparation for the Champions Trophy that begins on June 1 with England facing Bangladesh.
Rabada, who turns 22 on Thursday, made his ODI debut in July 2015 and has taken 57 wickets in 34 matches since – more than any other bowler since the 2015 World Cup.
Speaking to cricket.com.au, Domingo said, “He could be as good as Steyn. He’s a fantastic prospect for us and we’re expecting really big things from him this tour.
“He’s got pace and he’s got a wonderful head on his shoulders, with a great outlook on life … just very simplistic and calm.”
The fiery right-arm quick took 2 for 26 in a warm-up game against Northamptonshire on Sunday, having linked up with the national side after impressing with Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League, with whom he took six wickets in six matches.
While Rabada has to date remained largely injury-free, the inevitable heavy workload he faces in the coming months and years is a factor that is constantly being managed by Cricket South Africa.
Domingo lavished praise on the strapping paceman’s excellent physical condition which was also beneficial in his bid to steer clear of injury, considered part and parcel of every seamer’s career.
“If he takes his shirt off, you can see why he doesn’t get too many injuries, he’s an unbelievable athlete,” Domingo said. “He is built unbelievably well for a fast bowler.”
Domingo also outlined the importance of managing the fast bowler. “He’s a fantastic bowler who plays all formats for us and we have to be careful how we play him because he’s a special cricketer,” he said. “It is hard to believe he already has 60 or 70 Test wickets.”
Looking ahead to the four-Test series, which begins on July 6 at Lord’s, Domingo lamented the loss of the record-breaking Steyn but felt confident the South African pace attack had the necessary depth to handle his absence.
“Yes, Steyn’s absence is a blow, particularly in Test matches,” he said. “Dale has led this attack for a decade now and probably been the greatest fast bowler of the last decade. His record is phenomenal, his experience and performances here are second to none.
“But we’ve done really well with some of our new players coming in. You think of the likes of Rabada, while Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander are back in.
“Chris Morris and Wayne Parnell too are there, so we have good depth in our bowling department and it is an opportunity for somebody to do something special on one of the biggest tours of their careers.”