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.
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.
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.