Delhi Capitals pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada is back on the cricket field and raring to go. Known as one of the best in the business, the Proteas pacer is happy that the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) will give cricket fans across the globe reasons to smile amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to ANI on the eve of the opening game of the tournament between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, Rabada spoke about an IPL without fans, time with family in the lockdown, adapting to the saliva ban, and most importantly the future of South African cricket on the world stage as it undergoes a transition.
The unforeseen break due to the pandemic has seen cricketers spend quality time with family and friends and Rabada is no different as he says that he was in no rush to return to the field.
"I was in no rush to return to cricket! The last five-six years I've played across formats constantly, and it's hard on the body. The lockdown let me go back to things I didn't have time for with the busy cricket calendar, and I would say that my body and mind needed that break to feel refreshed in every way," he said.
So is it that much harder to return, especially with the bio-bubble putting a restriction to movements? Rabada says it is the "need of the hour".
"It feels great to be out in the open, on a cricket field, and to be able to play and run and bowl again, and it's good to be back with my teammates here at Delhi Capitals, and actually have a longer time than usual and bond before the tournament.
"The bio bubble has its restrictions, but we're here to play cricket, and I'm grateful for that opportunity. I am grateful to be able to what I enjoy so much, which is playing cricket," he explained.
But the pandemic also saw certain rule changes with an eye on the virus. And one of them is the saliva ban. Rabada though is looking at the brighter side and wants to bring in 'new tricks' on the table.
"Yeah, look, the saliva ban is something we will need to accept, and it is understandable why it's there. But as bowlers, we need to find alternates to saliva for shining the ball. Things may be different in different formats, so we'll have to see what works best," he pointed.
While he is willing to adapt to the pitch, he does admit he will miss the fans, especially his Indian friends who motivate the players even in the most trying conditions.
"It will be different no doubt, but we are in different times, aren't we? The IPL is happening, and we are grateful to be playing again. There's nothing like playing in front of the fans, especially in India, where they always turn out in such huge numbers, but I hope we can provide them with some joy as they watch the games on TV this year," he said.
Rabada is just as keen to get back on the pitch with skipper Shreyas Iyer as he believes this DC outfit has the potential to lift their maiden title.
"It was a fantastic experience (working with Iyer). We've known each other since U19 days, and he's comfortable in his role as the captain of the Delhi Capitals. It's a season I am really looking forward to. We have got some new names in, and it adds a lot of experience to the youth. I feel it brings in a lot more balance to the side," he pointed.
Finally, talking about the transition in the South Africa national unit, Rabada said that everyone needs to be patient as youngsters are coming through the ranks and one needs to do the hard yards now to reap the benefits in the years to come.
"We are in a rebuilding phase having lost some of our legends of the game. And now it is up to CSA and the players to produce the next generation of greats. Teams go through this, it's totally normal, and what's exciting is the future because it's a young crop of guys. The more we can hone our talent, the better we will get as a team," he signed off.