Kyle Abbott: 11 interesting things to know about the South African pacer

Born June 18, 1987, Kyle John Abbott is a South African pacer and one of the leading bowlers for his side across the formats. The tall young pacer from Zululand has an amazing ability to bowl at good pace and can generate swing as well. On his 29th birthday, Abhishek Kumar digs out 11 interesting things to know about him.

1.  Almost missed his debut call: Abbott did not answer the phone when he was called to inform about his maiden Test call-up. When his phone rang, he did not recognise the number. So he stopped the call, switched his phone to silent mode and went back to sleep. That was not a normal call; it was special for Abbott as it came straight from Andrew Hudson, the convener of the South African selectors. When Abbott woke up, there was a voice message left for him which he checked and packed his bag quickly to leave for Johannesburg for his dream debut.

2.  Made his debut in place of Jacques Kallis: Prior to the Test between South Africa and Pakistan in February 2013, Kallis got injured. Coach Gary Kirsten told Abbott that he might be in but he never thought of that as Kallis was a big player and would make it anyhow. Later, Kallis went for a scan and as things unfolded, Kirsten told him that he is in.

3.  Impressive debut: He played his debut international match against Pakistan in the third Test of the series in February 2013 at Centurion. Abbott scalped 7 wickets in the first innings of the Test, which is his career best figures till now and second best by a South African bowler on debut after Lance Klusener — who took 8 wickets on his debut. He took two more wickets in the second innings of the match and his figures of 9 for 68 are the third best bowling figures in a Test by a South African after Andrew Hall and Sydney Burke.

4.  Coached by most successful Zululander: Abbott hails from Kwazulu-Natal and he is said to be the second most successful player for South Africa from Zululand after Klusener. Abbott was coached by the most successful player from his land when he took the job of coaching Dolphins. Under Klusener’s coaching, Abbott developed his skills in longer format of the game and was the leading wicket-taker in 2012-13 season of First-Class cricket. He picked 49 wickets at 15.36 and that earned him South Africa’s Test cap.

5.  Struggled to cement his place in Test side: Despite making an excellent debut against Pakistan, Abbott had to struggle to keep his place safe in the longer format of the game. As there were already established bowlers like Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander in the side. Since his debut, South Africa have played 23 Tests but Abbott got the chance to play in only six of them. But now he is part of South Africa’s both limited-overs as well as Test squads.

6.  Handed all fifer balls to his parents: In an interview with ESPNCricinfo, Abbott revealed an interesting story about all his fifers in international cricket and said, “I have got every other ball that I have taken five wickets [with]. Just small pieces of memorabilia I always keep. I usually hand it all down to my parents. My parents have got a little bit of a display cabinet going on, so they have got most of the stuff at their house. When I am around there, I go in and have a look.”

7.  Death bowler: Abbott is considered to be one of the specialist bowlers for South Africa when it comes to bowling in death overs. It has been since the beginning of his career that he has been asked to bowl the most in death overs and he has taken the responsibility and delivered.

8.  Controversy over his exclusion from World Cup 2015 semi-final: The semi-final match of ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 against New Zealand was a huge heartbreak for South Africa as they lost once again after coming this far in the tournament. After the match, many raised questions over the selection of Philander ahead of Abbott. Philander was injured in the whole tournament but just before the semi-final match, he was fit. On the other hand, Abbott played three of the six league matches and the quarter final as well. He was South Africa’s best bowler in the tournament in terms of strike-rate and economy. In his four games, Abbott picked nine wickets at a strike-rate of 20.60 with an economy rate of 4.19.

Further, it was revealed that Philander was included in the team on the insistence of board members, which was against the wish of both coach and captain but later everything was denied by CSA president Chris Nenzani. The initial reports said that Philander’s inclusion was to ensure South Africa fielded four coloured players.

9.  His role model outside cricket: Abbott considers Nelson Mandela as his role model outside cricket. He revealed that in an interview with ESPNCricinfo and said, “He obviously had a huge impact on our country and the way we are now. I never got to meet him, unfortunately. I think one of the most important things that he said is that sport unites people. And I suppose that’s what I am doing – playing for the country, and I am lucky to do that. We have got a very diverse country, so I think that was one of the most important things he ever said, and that’s pretty cool to follow.”

10.  Funniest thing to witness on field: During the third Twenty20 International (T20I) between South Africa and Australia at Newlands, Cape Town on March 9, 2016 a squirrel interrupted the game for a few moments when it entered the field. That squirrel went across the pitch and Abbott calls it as the funniest thing he has ever seen on the field while playing.

11.  Better fisherman than Morne Morkel and Steyn: Abbott, Morne and Steyn are all fishing lovers. All three like to go for fishing and when asked on who is a better fisherman amongst the three, Abbott straight away puts his name as the best fisherman.

(Abhishek Kumar is a cricket devotee currently staffing with Criclife.com. He can be followed on Twitter @abhishekkr2593 and on Facebook at abhicricket.kumar)