Every so often a cricketer emerges to make fans consider sport's wider place in helping society.

The batting feats of Australia's Don Bradman helped distract people from the woes of The Great Depression; West Indian all-rounder Learie Constantine helped turn the tide against racial discrimination in Trinidad and England; Basil D'Oliviera helped swing international sporting opinion against the apartheid regime when his selection forced the cancellation of 1968 England tour to South Africa; and Arjuna Ranatunga helped Sri Lankans believe they could foot it with the world in the era leading to their 1996 World Cup victory.

South Africa might have unearthed a player with the qualities to help the Rainbow nation in a similar fashion.

YOU WILL hear more about pace bowler Kagiso Rabada this summer as he places New Zealand batsmen under scrutiny.

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Born in Johannesburg on May 25, 1995, he is a product of the new South Africa.

He arrived into a world where Nelson Mandela was a year into his post-Apartheid presidency. Rabada's parents, Dr Mpho and Florence, were professionals who sent him to St Stithians College, one of the country's premier private schools. He excelled across the sporting spectrum.

"A lot of people of colour never had the same opportunity in the old South Africa," Rabada says with the phlegmatic disposition of a man in control of his thoughts and beliefs.

He holds eye contact as though he's begun his run-up and you're an off stump.

"I'm grateful to my parents because so much talent is not unlocked in cricket, sport or anything [in South Africa].

"St Stithians had everything from photography to scuba diving clubs. It's a great school which opens your mind.

"In future I'll be trying to give people those same opportunities because it's only fair, and makes our country stronger."

Rabada, who has one younger brother, says his parents also helped pay the school fees for other family members.

"That's a massive responsibility. For instance, New Zealand's a great place but I couldn't move here - or anywhere - and run away from that."

Rabada has met his own responsibilities to date.

He has been picked on merit throughout his career, from school to age group to international level, and appears unburdened by the racial inequality experienced across past generations. That makes him the perfect ambassador for South African cricket, as they strive to expand the sport beyond a privileged white few.

As of September, the Proteas needed to field a minimum average of six players of colour in every XI, of which at least two must be black African, to meet "transformation" targets.

It's the first time less than half the team, on average over the season, can be white.

As Cricinfo's South African correspondent Firdose Moonda noted when the rule was installed:

"South Africa is a country healing after a history of legislated segregation, discrimination and oppression... Sport did not escape any of that."

RABADA'S ROLE as a catalyst for change is paramount. Makhaya Ntini spearheaded the march towards parity as the first full black test player in March 1998 but, with the likes of Rabada, Hashim Amla, J-P Duminy and Vern Philander selected on merit in the test side, racial equality is improving.

"I want to get picked on merit, and I think I have been," Rabada says. "However, what's happened in the past has influenced the country in a big way. As much as you want to stay out of politics, you get drawn in a bit. You can't judge someone on skin colour, so transformation is a fickle topic, but common sense prevails if you pick someone on merit.

"You want to give people of colour the opportunity to play but, at the same time, is it fair some white people aren't given the chance? People are trying to balance it out."

The 21-year-old's rest from the T20 appetiser against New Zealand on Friday night was rare. Anyone who has seen the right-armer bowl instantly recognises his orthodox precision. Deliveries sear through in excess of 140km/h with the ball moving both ways.

England, Australia and Sri Lanka will concur.

His 13 wickets for 144 against England in January last year were the second best figures by a South African after Ntini; his 10 for 92 secured the series victory against Sri Lanka this month; and his five for 92 took them to victory against Australia at Perth in November.

Rabada singles out that latter performance as his most rewarding "because of the situation and how we fought back". Dale Steyn injured his shoulder and came out of the attack in the first innings.

Rabada bowled 51 overs during a match in which Channel Nine commentator Ian Chappell paid the price for a lack of research. He gushed about Rabada's raw pace and talent, before saying "you'd have to ask all the batsmen in his village" to find out how he could have developed such speed.

Social media soon advised him that "village" was Johannesburg.

After Rabada scythed through England at Centurion, then-captain AB de Villiers noted: "With the racial history we've had in the past, to see two guys like that [Rabada and Temba Bavuma] step up and show what it's all about, it's fantastic to be a part of.

"Every time I asked him [Rabada] to come out and perform for us, he did.

"He showed the maturity of a guy who's played 100 test matches, but the pace of a guy who's played one or two."

The lessons are not lost on New Zealand captain Kane Williamson.

"He's quickly become one of the high quality fast bowlers in world cricket, and it looks likely to be that way for some time. He showed that in Australia during the test series, bowling at good pace for long spells."

Rabada also has the best figures by a South African in a first-class match - 14 wickets for 105 - and the best by any bowler on ODI debut - six for 16 against Bangladesh in Dhaka, including a hat-trick.

"Since deciding to make cricket my sport, I have always believed that I could be the best cricketer in world," Rabada said after his selection as South African player of the year in July.

CRICKETERS OFTEN talk about pride in playing for their country. That can be a nebulous concept, occasionally used as camouflage for more selfish ends.

With Rabada you sense honourable intentions. As his father once told him: "When you play for the country, you are playing for all the races. You should play for the people who have never heard about cricket."

Rabada is conscious of drawing together the threads of a nation which has endured its share of civil distress.

"We need to put out a good message to people who look up to us. There's definitely more to life than playing cricket."

Kagiso Rabada

• Born in Johannesburg on May 25, 1995
• Named South African cricketer of the year in July 2016
• His match figures of 13-144 v England at Centurion last year are the second best in South African history behind Makhaya Ntini's 13-132 v West Indies at Port-of-Spain in 2005.
• Best figures by a South African bowler in a first-class match - 14-105.
• Best figures by any bowler on ODI debut - six for 16 against Bangladesh in Dhaka, including a hat-trick.