The fact the Highveld Lions are probably pinning much of their hopes in Ram Slam T20 competition on a 22-year-old fast bowler says much about how quickly Kagiso Rabada has had to grow up.
It’s been ages since the brilliant young Proteas quick has been seen in the colours of his franchise.
Yet in that time Rabada has shot to No 3 in the world rankings for Test bowlers.
— Heinz Schenk (@sportmal) November 9, 2017
It’s little wonder then that coach Geoff Toyana has high expectations.
“I’m actually scared to say KG will influence the younger players in our group positively because he himself is only 22 still,” the Lions mentor said on Thursday.
“But he definitely has a presence in the dressing room. He hasn’t played a lot for us the past few seasons but he’s become a leader in his own right. There’s a calming influence that he has on his teammates.”
Taking wickets within the first six overs was one of the Lions’ glaring weaknesses in last season’s campaign despite them squeezing into the semifinals.
Naturally, that’s where Rabada comes in.
“We struggled for wickets up front previously,” said Toyana.
“We’re banking on KG to do that for us. He’s a natural wicket-taker.”
But it doesn’t mean Rabada will have to carry the bowling group on his shoulders.
By all accounts, the Lions actually might boast one of the best T20 attacks in the country, especially in terms of variety.
Beuran Hendricks provides another dimension with his left-arm seamers, while Wiaan Mulder and Dwaine Pretorius are canny right-armers.
Captain Aaron Phangiso and Bjorn Fortuin bring some competent spin into the mix as well.
However, it’s the presence of the now experienced Hardus Viljoen that really lightens the load.
Much like Rabada, his ability to strike early at pace could be priceless.
“We want to play positive cricket. I want Hardus and KG to strike in tandem,” said Toyana.