Tahir vs Rabada: What a juicy rivalry (not forgetting Steyn)
Key members of SA’s attack join forces at the World Cup in England, which starts in less than three weeks
You wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of Kagiso Rabada, but Imran Tahir might have done exactly that.
When Rabada was invalided out of the Indian Premier League (IPL) with a back injury at the end of April, his 25 wickets put him eight wickets ahead of the rest of the bowlers in the tournament.
But Tahir pipped Rabada in Sunday’s final, finishing top of the pile with 26 scalps at an average of 16.57 and an economy rate of 6.69.
That gave the leg spinner one more strike than Rabada, which earned him the purple cap award and with it a prize of a million rupees (about R202,000).
“I dedicate this purple cap to all the true fans who supported me which inspired me to do well in every outing,” Tahir, one of the most self-effacing players in the game, wrote on social media. “I can humbly say it’s you who won the purple cap and not me.”
It’s unlikely to make Rabada feel better that he had a superior average and strike rate than Tahir, nor that he took his wickets in 17.2 fewer overs. No bonuses are banked for leading those categories.
So, when Rabada and Tahir meet at SA’s World Cup training camp in Cape Town, things could be tense.
Might a shoulder charge in the manner of the one Rabada laid on Steve Smith, albeit lightly, after dismissing him at St George’s Park in March 2018 be in order?
Probably not. Having already lost money to Tahir, the last thing Rabada needs is to have to splash out on hiring the eminently expensive Dali Mpofu, who he needs to get him out of a ban after the Smith silliness.
Besides, it’s not as if Tahir’s wicket celebration is a timid affair: broad shoulders or not, Rabada could come second.
Veterans such as MS Dhoni and Shane Watson, Tahir’s captain and teammates at Chennai Super Kings, know better than to get in his way.
“We have made it very clear that me and Watson are never coming to him once he gets a wicket, because more often he runs to the other side,” Dhoni said during a post-match presentation this season. “For me and Watson it’s a bit difficult when you are not 100% fit. Why go over there to congratulate him?
“The good thing is he finishes his lap and comes back to the same place. So that’s the time we say, ‘Very well done … well bowled’, and we go back to our fielding positions.”
Rabada, rehab permitting, and Tahir will be key members of SA’s attack at the World Cup in England, which starts in less than three weeks.
The only other SA bowler standing at the end of the IPL who is also part of SA’s World Cup squad, Chris Morris, took 13 wickets in nine games for Delhi Capitals.
With luck and decent medical care, Dale Steyn – who revitalised the struggling Royal Challengers Bangalore in two games before hurting a shoulder – will also be on the plane to London, where SA play the hosts at the Oval on May 30 in the opening match.
On the batting end of the equation, Quinton de Kock had the most successful IPL among South Africans going to the World Cup. He was third among the run scorers with 529, including four half-centuries, in 16 innings. Faf du Plessis was 18th with 396 from a dozen innings, but there will be worry over David Miller.
A top score of 59 not out in 10 trips to the crease that brought Miller 213 runs is his lowest output from IPLs in which he has had at least 10 innings since 2016, when he made 161 in 13. That’s a far cry from 2013, when Miller hammered a century and three 50s in a dozen innings, or a year later, when his 446 in 16 earned him seventh spot on the run-scoring charts.Miller translated that form into 324 runs in seven innings at the 2015 World Cup, suggesting that – despite what its detractors say – the IPL is good for the wider game.