Prelude to the Cheating Aussie Story: Dressing Room Review

A throwback piece to 2017 when I was tasked with writing a Gonzo piece for my Journalism class.

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Part of the so-called “Leadership Group” who planned to tamper with the ball is their possible leader: Steve Smith. Image: dnaindia.com

Steve Smith, you are a damn cheat! Do you think that we fans and spectators are stupid? And the fact that you were not charged for this appals me. As a passionate South African cricket fan and writer, I am beyond angry at the ICC. Let us just get one thing clear: the ICC is full of nonsense. Absolute bollocks! And I will tell you why I think so. Some people, who are just not keeping up with such serious matters like this, even though it is in cricket, will think that this situation is meaningless. Well, here we go in trying to understand the thinking of the ICC here.

What a test match it was though. In the first one, India had just come from a 333-run drubbing in their own flat, spinning-like-a-top track where they had been dominating visiting teams in tests to eventually climb to the number one rankings in the format. Historical win for the Australians to inflict such a beating, but that has gone out of the window once this incident occurred, and it was kind of a one-man show, in which Steve O’Keefe got twelve wickets at the end of the match to help his side to a win. This test series was just full of drama: from Matt Renshaw being looked down by retired Baggy Greens and his captain for ‘retiring hurt’ to go to the toilet during the first innings, to this cheating debacle. People were not kidding when they previewed this series by saying it will be interesting.

But back on topic now: the deceitful ways of an Australian player. Worse thing is that he is the captain. I will try and simplify it for you if you do not know what happened. Steve Smith was batting to try and save his team in the fourth innings of the second test match in Bengaluru, with Australia three wickets down very early in the innings. Umesh Yadav of India bowled an absolute peach to trap Smith for leg before wicket (lbw). Absolutely plumb, it was. Even if he had reviewed it, he was going to be out, and apparently the umpire thought so, too. Smith, now unsure whether or not he got a little bit of bat on the ball, consults with his non-striking partner, Peter Handscomb. Now here is where things start to get controversial. Handscomb suggests to Smith that he should ask the Aussie dressing room whether or not to review it.

As a captain, Smith should have stopped there straight away. It is stated in the ICC Code of Conduct, that is only read by umpires and match referees apparently, that you can only consult with your batting partner on whether or not you should review. It is simple as to why you should not ask the dressing room: they are also watching the game on their televisions and laptops for technical things players can look out for and work on etcetera. It’s basically cheating. It is almost like taking a test in high school and having a phone on you with the answers on it: unfair!  The umpire saw this straight away and sent Smith off the field with him not even getting a chance to review the lbw. Rightfully so, Captain Virat Kohli of India was livid! He stated in the press conference that he had spoken to the umpires and match referee of this almost typical Australian doing of consulting the dressing room.

Steve Smith, I will ask you again: do you think for a second that fans are going to believe that it was a brain fade to consult the dressing room on whether or not you were out knowing full well you cannot do that? Again I ask, do you think we are incredibly stupid? Apparently the ICC and Cricket Australian Board (CAB) believe you because now they are not going to review this case, and the CAB have gone on to say to fans stating the obvious that this was unfair play are outrageous and wrong; and that he is a respected player amongst the team. It was almost as if they were not watching the same match as majority of the cricket fans in the world. Unlucky for him, the Australian cricket teams over the years have a slight reputation for cheating in matches and getting away with it. For example, Justin Langer in the late 90s had walked past a batsman’s stumps and knocked the bails off so that he could be ‘hit wicket’ out. ICC did not review the case even though there was clear evidence and footage that he did intentionally knock the bails off.

The reason this story irritates and angers me so much is because the very same ICC that fined Proteas test captain Faf du Plessis one hundred percent of his match fee for shining the ball with saliva while having a sweet in his mouth, is not going to fine Steve Smith for a more serious offence. There is no scientific proof of this, but it is said that sugar enhances the ball to swing more for bowlers, meaning more wickets to be taken. The Australians do love to clutch at straws when things do not go their way in a match. This is because this Mint-gate saga, as it was called, came from the Aussies media stating that it caused the South Africans to beat the Aussies in one of their worst-scoring game ever. The players and media acted all self-righteous in saying that Faf should have just followed the rules and not “tampered” with the ball, and that “rules are rules”. The very same teammates and blind Aussie fans that were discrediting and booing Faf respectively are now standing behind captain Smith for him to not get sanctioned and banned for something evident, stating it was an “honest mistake”.

As a captain for an international captain for as long as he has been, I believe you should know what is and is not allowed on the field of play. He should have known the rules. Even when Handscomb suggested he ask the dressing room for advice, he should have told him it’s not allowed, because it seems pretty evident that Handscomb himself does not know what the rules and laws in the Code of Conduct are. I, myself don’t know them by head, but I would think that not being allowed to ask people off the field for batting advice is common sense? Or am I being presumptuous here?

I am extremely disgruntled that this case is not being reviewed: it was reported within five days after the match, there is that “in-your-face” nothing-hidden-or-complicated evidence of what happened. While there has not been much spoken on the other times the Aussies looked up at the dressing room for a review, it still cannot be classified a “brain-fade” if you’ve done it more than once. Let me put it like this: Faf said that there was no intention for his so-called “ball-tampering” when shining the ball. With this, it is something that all players have done, in which he had a huge amount of support from current and former cricketers on the matter. He still got fined 100 percent of his match-fee, though; a real storm in a teacup, if you ask me. Smith on the other hand, knows the rules, is a captain, and took advice from a batsman who has only played six test matches for his country.

If you were to ask me right now: do I feel that Steve Smith was left off way too lightly? I’ll say yes, without a doubt. ICC’s chief executive, David Richardson was utterly disgusted and “disappointed” when Faf appealed the ICC’s original decision when he was found guilty. But Richardson wants fans to know that the repercussions, or lack thereof, that were taken with Smith and Virat Kohli were acceptable and fair. I’m not once suggesting that there may be a great deal of corruption or ill-dealings within the ICC camp, but I just want someone, anyone, to explain clearly to me as to why Steve Smith will not get charged for this “mistake” he’s made here, and that if Faf made a mistake, why was he heavily fined for something that has no scientific proof. Mark my words: this is sure to have a very interesting effect come the next test match between these two countries. Peace talks were set to place; whether the two captains left with peace and without bruised egos remains to be seen.

Selective Players Are Detained for Similar Emotions

I may not be the most important person in the world, but to me, it sounds like the Australians are not confident in their own team, that they have to use such undermining and cheeky tactics in order to attempt to win a series. What will make the series victory even sweeter for South Africa is if they do it without Kagiso Rabada in the line-up.

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Kagiso Rabada’s passion is now interpreted a send-off to Australian batsmen. Image: hindustantimes.com

An incredible test match between South Africa and Australia is once again spoken about for drama off the field. Maybe not so much off the field, but definitely not much focus is on the actual cricket. We are only two matches into this test series, and I am already exhausted from all the emotions I’ve been experiencing since the de Kock-Warner incident. AB did tweet that this would be a series to remember. He was not wrong.

The sanctions that Quinton de Kock and David Warner received just after the first match were fair, and it was a miracle that Warner was fined at all. Many were calling for him to be banned from the second match because of his actions, with him nearly getting physical if he wasn’t held back. Moving on to the second test in Port Elizabeth, many (including me) were expecting slight fireworks between the two, but for the sake of moving on and getting on the cricket, they were reasonably civil.

I will come out immediately and say that I am still against sledging. I said a while ago that I am not for what it does or brings into the games, because things can get personal very quickly. de Kock was extremely wrong for saying whatever he said about Candice Warner, but it also goes to show that Warner himself should watch what he says to others about their families. The Aussies always speak of this “line” that they do not/should not cross, but none of them want to define what it entails.

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The Indians, Australians and English often have worse celebrations, but most the time get off without issue by the ICC. Image: indiatvnews.com

Kagiso Rabada of South Africa, who has recently been named as the number one test bowler in the world, was handed a hefty two-match suspension due to his climbing number of demerit points dished out by the ICC. Why, you ask? Well, one sanction was for allegedly giving David Warner a send-off after clean bowling him for 19 in the second innings of the second match. Was there a send-off? If screaming “yes yes yes” going towards his teammates counts as a one, then yes. The second sanction was an impending one that was for apparently showing some animalistic intent in walking past captain Steve Smith, bumping his shoulder in the process. Smith immediately turned around and put some performance on as if Rabada had just dislocated his shoulder, making it an issue for him to score runs for the rest of series.

The way the ICC has gone about disciplining grown men with the points system is now starting to show its cracks. How do Rabada and Sri Lanka’s Niroshan Dickwella get three demerit points each for bumping into each other? How does Rabada’s grazing of Smith’s shoulder even compare in terms of punishment to what Warner did and said to de Kock? In him getting the same number of points than that of Warner, which is what is being implied. How does the ICC charge Rabada for giving a send-off to Warner but there are bowlers like Mitchell Starc practically screams in batsman’s face when he takes their wicket? How does that not count as a send-off? Virat Kohli, who is a player I give great respect to, gave many send-offs to batsmen when they toured South Africa, even lower order batsmen, and the ICC did nothing. How close is the ICC actually monitoring games? Many people will argue that Mitchell Marsh getting a match fee docking and a demerit point for swearing at Rabada should not have happened, but for the sake of fairness it should have.

Overall, I think of Rabada’s punishment as one a little too harsh. I would have just left it at the match fee dockings. I seriously doubt that he gave Warner a send-off, let alone one that was worth a demerit point in the match. Maybe he’ll learn to celebrate in a different way, but it remains to be seen. What Kohli, Warner, and Smith deem emotional celebrations, fans of opposing teams get called “whiny” for complaining about how over the top they can be. It isn’t a problem for the ICC though. However, the second a celebration in that manner happens with a Protea, it’s a send-off and can trigger a reaction from the batsman.

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Overall support for this test series may dwindle due to the ICC banning the number one test bowler. Image: shiftsearch.com

There’s a thought amongst fans that the Aussies actually planned to get Rabada banned, as Smith had spoken to the press and said how his team were planning to rile Rabada and du Plessis up due to their accumulation in demerit points. The video footage shows that Smith purposefully slowed down to walk into Rabada, with him moving his away. Where Jeff Crowe found intention there against KG, I’m not sure. Another thing that shows that the Aussies are not as genuine and full of sportsmanship as they say, is that in the beginning Smith said they were hoping to get Rabada going, but saying that they want him to play after the second match. The next day, assistant coach Brad Haddin says that Rabada being suspended is a bonus. I may not be an important person in the world, but to me, it sounds like the Australians are not confident in their own team, that they have to use such undermining and cheeky tactics in order to attempt to win a series. What will make the series victory even sweeter for South Africa is if they do it without Kagiso Rabada in the line-up.

The Aussies have more power than they let on, and they could probably do more than Cricket South Africa ever could if one of their own was given the same punishment. If more players were being sanctioned the way KG is, teams would only field six or seven players. The ICC want to know why test cricket is dying, they need to look at how they’ve just killed this test series.

Twitter: @YorkerCorker_

Sledge As Much As You’re Willing To Take: An Article Long Overdue

While sledging does add that factor of interest towards a series, players should be able to back up all the trash talk with actual skill.

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The series between India and Australia as riddled with sledging, which was the main focus before the series started. Image: india.com

Last year, I read a news article where Australian captain Steve smith was at a press conference just after his squad arrived in India prior to the test series. The headline of this article, as well as the article itself, stated that smith basically admitted that his side was going to sledge their way through the tough Indian series that was coming up.

Straight off the bat (no pun intended) every team sledges. Just to clarify, it’s a part of the game, and it’s sole purpose is to use verbal remarks to inevitably mess up a player’s mental concentration. This is done by usually the fielding side, to get the batsman out quicker. This mostly happens to batsmen at the crease, but bowlers do also get sledged by the batsmen. Sometimes, as you can expect when grown men with an overwhelming amounts of testosterone and high emotions in a match, the sledges become slightly… overbearing. The ICC, technically, does not have much of an issue with sledging, provided that there’s no swearing or defamation to one’s character (and that it is not picked up over the stump microphones). However, is that not what sledging is in a way?

As previously mentioned of the test series between the Aussies and Indians, this series was one with a massive amount of drama. This being from pitches being deemed dangerous and not suitable for play due to how much grass, or lack thereof, there was on it, to Steve Smith’s dressing room review ‘brain fade’. Many teams do not usually have much success in India when it comes to the turning tops of the wickets and the heat, so in Smith stating to the press that they were going to focus more on their sledging gave me the impression that the team were not confident in winning the series as confidently as they always claim to be on other tours. Why rely on an idea (of actively sledging) where it can get you into more trouble than you would like? Is it because you know you will get away with it, reason being that it is in the spirit of the game and it is all passion?

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Sometimes, players need to be quiet on the field and show more skills with the bat and ball instead of the incessant sledging. Image: blogpickstar.com.au

Now we focus to more recent times. Before this series even began, there was a cloud of drama looming in the air, with the visitors requesting that the stump microphones be turned down or off. The question here is why? What is there to hide? What did the Aussies plan to say during the matches that the mics needed to be turned down? What has come out today is a spat between David Warner and Quinton de Kock that went down the personal route between them both that was caught on CCTV footage which was leaked. The situational irony here is that Australia had put on a show for the stump mics to be turned down so that they could sledge in piece, but cameras still caught them.

But where is the line drawn? There seems to be a line that is created between teams where there is space to poke and poke at another player to the point of slightly uncomfortable reactions. If certain players are only going to be known being a bully on the field where you get personal all the time, you do not deserve any respect. I think of this line and how certain teams use this line to their advantage like this: the line of sledging tactics. It’s a line so thin, it’s almost transparent. When a player from India, Australia, or England steps over this line of sledging, directing it towards another player, they will be expected to step closer and closer in retaliation. The minute the target stands so much as on the line, the instigator will jump off this line so quickly and cry wolf. This so-called line between sledging and getting personal, on or off the field does not exist. And this incident between de Kock and Warner shows it. I spoke in a previous article by which I had questioned how genuine the Aussies were in creating videos of the South African team where they speak on the respecting the opposition, but immediately go and speak so ill of their family?

I’ll conclude by saying that while sledging does add that factor of interest towards a series, players should be able to back up all the trash talk with actual skill. Saying that you will focus on sledging more than trying to combat the issue of not being able to play spin is a rubbish statement. I’m not sure what the punishment will be for Warner and de Kick, but both are guilty of taking things too far in statements. I do hope no suspension will take place, but a hefty fine may just make their way to them. But who knows? Maybe the ICC will let Warner get off scot-free. No-one knows, but one thing’s for sure is that this series and story will have many glued to their phones and televisions for the rest of the series.

 

Remaining fixtures in this series:

  • South Africa vs. Australia 2nd Test: Friday 9-13 March 2018 St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth
  • South Africa vs. Australia 3rd Test: Thursday 22-26 March 2018 PPC Newlands, Cape Town
  • South Africa vs. Australia 4th Test: Friday 30 March-3 April 2018 Bidvest Wanderers, Johannesburg

Can We Possibly Move On from the Mind-Games?

Reverse psychology? Maybe. Could there be a solution to this? Absolutely: shut up with the psychological warfare, and get on with the game!

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An interesting Test series is looming come Thursday, but the forced humility is a little bit irritating. Image: cricket.com.au

It could be possible that as I’ve grown into a Westernised equivalent of an adult, I’ve also developed the slight side effect of viewing things from a cynical point of view. With a slight hint of doubt. However, I will just go with the assumption that my view is not the only one out there.

Recently, the Australian test team currently touring in South Africa decided that they needed to make a video on why they think AB de Villiers is such a great batsman. This is not the first time they have done a video like this before playing South Africa in a test series. The team spearheaded by Steve Smith had recorded four more videos in 2016, sitting in a room with a backdrop of black, having their faces be the centre of focus throughout the entire video speaking specific players in the Proteas squad who they admire, and what they think of the squad as a whole. The first video spoke about Dale Steyn, the second on Kagiso Rabada, the third on AB, and the fourth on the Proteas team as a whole.

Why do this? Why is Australia out to make themselves look like they are the most humble team of test playing nations? Why go through so much time speaking to a starting eleven asking them the same question, in which you expect the same answer? What satisfaction do they get out of speaking of how the opposition in a series of videos as opposed to just saying a one-liner in a press conference? Why do they not do these sucking-up videos with other teams like India, Pakistan, or New Zealand? The Ashes media hype does not count because it is all for a boring series, especially when things get one-sided.

If I think back to the 2016 test series between these two countries, it was a rather eventful one. The MintGate saga occurred, Dale Steyn dislocated his shoulder and South Africa was down one bowler on day two of the first test, it was the Proteas’ first Pink Ball match. It may seem that all the things that could have gone wrong for South Africa did, and that they were destined to be beaten by the Aussies. They choked in the first match and did not even try in the second. They came back in the third, but it was too little too late.

I was a first year student in 2016, studying furiously for my end of year exams when the series took place. I may have been in my psychological state of mind due to late nights cramming psychology content, but I felt after that series that all of those videos made may not have been to intimidate the Proteas into fearing for a difficult series Down Under, but they had come off a strong ODI series whitewash win and were prepared for anything: their confidence may had just been strengthened for that tour. Reverse psychology? Maybe. Could there be a solution to this? Absolutely: shut up with the psychological warfare, and get on with the game! I sometimes think that the Baggy Greens do enjoy the sounds of their own voices due to some of the things said. That is not a problem, usually, if the mind-games do not backfire and you win games convincingly. However, that takes away from how “genuine” these comments about players in the videos are just before a series takes place. Am I still being a cynic in making a comment like this?

Newlands Test Tug-O-War, Proteas Victorious

This was definitely a test match to be remembered had the result gone either way. It was a match in which the bowlers from both teams performed magnificently.

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Philander took a career best 6-42 to bowl the Proteas to victory. Image: cricketaddictor.com

A series that Indian and South African fans had been waiting for finally has started; and what a test match it was. Having high expectations for the series, this test definitely showed that cricket fans are definitely in for a treat. It is the first match of the tour, and it has already had more action than the whole Ashes series.

The build up going into the game had Cricket South Africa and the ground staff at Newlands making sure that there was a substantial amount of green on the wicket: this being for the hope that the Proteas starting line up would have the four-pronged pace attack of Steyn, Rabada, Morkel, and Philander. With the dreadful drought in Cape Town at the moment, rain dances would have been performed before the match in hope of getting some green on the wicket.

The biggest shock may have been Faf’s decision to bat first at the toss, especially looking back at how much emphasis had been placed on the pitch and how it would work in favour of the South African bowlers. Most would have jumped at the opportunity to bowl first.

With the Proteas batting first, they had seen themselves batting with caution due to Elgar, Markram and Amla’s wickets falling to have the scorecard at 12-3. AB and Faf put on a helpful partnership which saw them both achieve their half centuries. Eventually the batsmen managed to put 286 runs on the board before being bowled out. It was time to see the bowlers put in their magic in the field.

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Hardik Pandya was the pick of the Indian players for his 94 runs and 3 wickets in the first match. Image: timesofindia.com

India found themselves at 92-7, before being rescued by Pandya and Kumar putting on a very handy 99-run partnership to bring India to 209 before being bowled out. This gave Faf’s men a lead of 77 that could have been more.

Starting the second innings was a rocky one for South Africa, losing two quick wickets to Pandya just before stumps on day two. Day three was washed out, which was a much needed downpour (even though some people said the rain was being a pain).

Day four started with Amla and night-watchman Rabada at the crease on 59-2. Wickets falling quickly saw the Proteas on 130-9, before AB was caught at the boundary rope trying to go for a maximum. The fight back needed by SA pacers was always going to be a tough ask as they were a bowler short (Steyn ruled out of the test series for four-six weeks due to a bruised heel) and only having to defend 208 runs.

Wickets were falling coming at a smooth rate thanks to Morkel and Philander, leaving India three wickets down with 39 on the board when Indian captain Virat Kohli came on to bring the victory to his camp. A partnership worth a meagre but worrying 32 came to an end when Philander bowled Captain Kohli out for 28. Elation was shown from the Proteas and supporters knowing how important his wicket was. Sharma was offered a lifeline when Maharaj dropped a sitter off his bat, only to chop a delivery off Philander onto his stumps. The Indian star of the first innings in Pandya had hopes to replicate his 93 to bring India back into the game. He was caught by AB for 1 an over after Sharma’s dismissal.

A partnership of 49 between Ashwin and Kumar kept the Indian tail wagging, before Philander starred again, breaking their partnership at 49 and claiming Ashwin’s wicket. The last two wickets were picked up in the 42nd over, giving Philander a career best of 6-42.

South Africa won by 72 runs, bowling out the visitors for 135 runs. They are now 1-0 up in the three-match series. This was definitely a test match to be remembered had the result gone either way. It was a match in which the bowlers from both teams performed magnificently. My own gripe with the match is how the Protea bowlers could have wrapped up the innings a lot quicker than they did, for they let the tail wag a little more than they should have. Now what will be discussed is who will replace Dale Steyn in the squad. Go with an all-rounder? Bring back Temba Bavuma or Theunis de Bruyn? Or will they bring in an out-and-out pacer in Lungi Ngidi?

If Faf Was Cheating, Then So Was Steven Smith

This is a slight problem if Steve is going to listen to a player who has only played six test matches and clearly doesn’t know the rules.

Faf du Plessis: found guilty of ball tampering after video footage surfaced of him polishing a ball with saliva mixed with mint from a sweet. Fined 100 percent of his match fee. Appealed the decision. Told by David Richardson that it’s disappointing that he was appealing, even though it was well within his right. Was booed by Australians for what happened and harassed by Aussie media in between matches. The Aussie nation was basically hurt because they felt a sweet kept the Baggy Greens from winning that test series.

Steve Smith: called out by umpire Nigel Llong and Virat Kohli for using the wrong kind of DRS (Dressing-Room Review System). Accused (but no proof of the other two times) of doing this three times over three days. Said it was a brain fade. Apart from sane cricket fans and Indian players, CA board and the rest of his team believed him (on a necessary side note, remember when ‘Saint’ David Warner crucified Faf during Mint-gate saying “I would be disappointed if any of my players did that. Rules are rules”) and backed him. So much so that the ICC didn’t sanction him.

Now hey, I’m not implying that there are some shady dealings behind the closed doors of the ICC, but something doesn’t make sense. The issue was reported within five days of the match being played. There is video evidence, which has both Kohli and Nigel Llong seeing what happened. So why was this not dealt with? Because Steve Smith said it was an accident? Is that the justification we can give nowadays?

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Disagreements before the drama happened. Image: india.com

We all remember when South Africa basically obliterated the Aussies in their own backyard late last year in tests, right? Great, because we are taking a small trip down memory lane. Apart from the win, what is the one thing you remember from that series? If you thought of the Faf du Plessis mint-gate drama, you are spot on! While, maybe, it’s still a sensitive topic for heartbroken Aussie fans that their glory boys were embarrassed at home due to an alleged swing-inducing sweet, it is something that needs to be addressed.

Earlier this month, Australian captain Steve Smith was reprimanded by umpire Nigel Llong and Virat Kohli for looking up at the dressing room for assistance on whether or not to review for an lbw. Smith had gone on to say, during the press conference, that it was a brain-fade and that he did not mean to do it or that he did not know he could not do it. This may sound a bit rude, but what kind of a captain, whom has been a captain for as long as Smith has, does not know the rules of the game?

kwesesportscomPeter Handscomb tried to divert the criticism Smith was getting onto him by tweeting it was his fault stating that it was him that said Smith must ask the teammates and staff in the dressing room. Even so, his captain should have still not done it. There’s no excuse for what he’s done. As a captain, he should have said to Handscomb that was he was suggesting is not allowed. Apologising, while it’s polite, is not really going to help anything. Do you think that even if Faf apologised, he would not have gotten such heat? Why were there no newspapers slating Smith for what he had done? Were they hyping up how Kohli had reacted than Smith’s actual offence? This is a slight problem if Steve is going to listen to a player who has only played six test matches and clearly doesn’t know the rules.

Am I wrong in assuming that checking with support staff to see if you are out or not allowed is a case of common sense? As a South African fan, because of how the Mint-gate saga rocked the cricketing nation for a bit, I am mad that the ICC is not doing a single thing about this. They just closed the matter off and told everyone to move on. I feel that they should have addressed this matter, not just a peace talk, once the heat had died down. Because this did not happen, the rest of this series could turn ugly with sledges filled with pettiness and bitterness. Did the ICC actually close the matter off on purpose to get people talking about the match/series and giving it more hype? But hey, maybe these two teams are going to act like grown men, and not let a small issue like this not get in the way of play, right?

Newspaper clipping image found at kwesesports.com.