Players might not be perfect, but nor are cricket authorities

South Africa's batsman Kagiso Rabada leaves the field after being dismissed by Australia's bowler Mitchell Starc, for 3 runs on day two of the first cricket Test match between South Africa and Australia in Durban, South Africa. (AP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Players might not be perfect, but nor are cricket authorities

BANGALORE: On current form, Kagiso Rabada is the best fast bowler in the world. His numbers – 135 wickets at 21.45 and an astonishing strike-rate of 38.9 – suggest that he could be one of the finest there has ever been.
He has also been skirting the line when it comes to disciplinary issues. But just over a week after it was thought that he would miss the rest of the series against Australia — the third Test starts at Newlands in Cape Town tomorrow — the two-match ban was overturned on appeal.
Rabada’s appeal was motivated partly by the staggering inconsistency in the application of the rules. In the first Test of the series in Durban, Warner was fined 75 percent of his match fee and given three demerit points for almost coming to blows with Quinton de Kock in a stairwell leading to the dressing rooms.
South Africa felt, with some justification, that Rabada’s contact with Steve Smith’s shoulder — not deliberate according to them — was a lesser offense.
After a video conference that lasted more than six hours on Monday, Mike Heron, the ICC appeals commissioner, agreed with them. But the punishment of a fine of 25 percent of the match fee and one demerit point looked odd again when juxtaposed against Bangladesh’s appalling behavior in a Twenty20 international against Sri Lanka last week.
Furious over a no-ball that was not called in the last over, Shakib Al-Hasan (pictured), the captain, threatened to call his team back to the pavilion. Nurul Hasan, one of the reserve players, exchanged barbs with Thisara Perera, the Sri Lankan captain, and was involved in another ugly face-off after Bangladesh had won. One of the glass doors of their dressing room was also smashed in the aftermath of the victory.
Faced with such boorishness, all that the ICC did was fine both Shakib and Nurul 25 percent of their match fees and give them a demerit point apiece.
Rabada screaming in the batsman’s face after dismissing him is nothing new. But even in the current series, there have been other examples. Mitchell Starc did it repeatedly while slicing through the South African tail in Durban. The only difference was that he kept more of a distance between him and the batsmen.
Send-offs are one of the most unedifying aspects of modern cricket. Watch footage of when West Indies fast bowlers terrorized batsmen and you will barely see a word spoken. Sure, there were short-ball barrages and stares aplenty, but few words. As Michael Holding, one of the famed quartet, loves to say, “The ball did the talking.”
Rather than leave everything to the match referee, umpires need to be empowered to end such behavior at the outset. Persistent vile abuse from the slips and close-in fielders is often audible to the match officials. By not acting on it immediately, you create a fertile atmosphere for the Warner-de Kock situations that drag the game through the mud.
At least Rabada recognizes that he has a problem. “It’s going to have to stop,” he said after the second Test. “I can’t keep doing this because I am letting the team down and I am letting myself down.”
Officials who go soft on players, as happened in Colombo, also let the game down. As much as the players, they are the game’s custodians. It’s not an enviable job, but without consist-ency in the application of the laws, even repeat offenders like Rabada will find loopholes.


Man City humbled in 2-1 loss to Lyon in Champions League

City were humbled by French side Lyon in Manchester. (Reuters)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Man City humbled in 2-1 loss to Lyon in Champions League

  • City’s players were humbled 2-1 by Lyon in a sloppy and apathetic display at the start of their European campaign

MANCHESTER, England: If Manchester City wants to finally win a first Champions League title, it will have to start taking the competition a bit more seriously — on and off the field.
Surrounded by swathes of empty seats in the Etihad Stadium, City’s players were humbled 2-1 by Lyon in a sloppy and apathetic display at the start of their European campaign on Wednesday.
Banned from the touchline and unable to communicate with the bench, City manager Pep Guardiola did fill one seat in the stands and he saw his Premier League champions easily picked apart by the French visitors.
“We felt under threat every time we lost the ball and sometimes that brings the confidence a little bit lower,” said City assistant manager Mikel Arteta, who was in charge on the bench in Guardiola’s absence.
Errors by midfielder Fernandinho led to both Lyon goals, typifying how careless City was against a team that finished third in the French league last season and was even held to a draw at the weekend by 10-man Caen.
When a pass by the Brazilian midfielder was intercepted around the halfway line, Lyon charged forward. Nabil Fekir sent in a cross from the left that evaded Fabian Delph’s swinging legs, allowing Maxwel Cornet to slot it home in the 26th minute. Delph held his head in his hands as the consequences of his mistake became clear.
City’s troubles deepened when Fernandinho was caught in possession again. Memphis Depay set Fekir on a run and the forward doubled Lyon’s lead in the 43rd by striking through the legs of John Stones.
“It was a difficult game,” said Depay, who struggled to make an impact at Manchester United before leaving after two seasons in 2017. “But when we had the ball we tried to play and when we won the ball we tried to counterattack.”
Perhaps the only reason for City to feel aggrieved in the first half was Gabriel Jesus being denied a penalty when he was tripped by former Manchester United defender Rafael da Silva just before Depay scored.
“To concede two goals like we did is very frustrating,” Stones said. “We came in at halftime a bit deflated I think. But we picked ourselves up and we came out second half fighting and played a better second half.”
But the improvement wasn’t sufficient.
City pulled one back in the 67th when Bernardo Silva scored from substitute Leroy Sane’s cutback. But the attacking threat was too patchy from a City side that won the Premier League with a record 100 points only four months ago, and are widely seen as one of the big favorites in this season’s Champions League.
“I suffered as I was scared they’d score a second goal,” Lyon coach Bruno Genesio said. “We would have taken 2-2 before the match but given the way the game went we’d have been disappointed not to leave with the three points.”
With Hoffenheim and Shakhtar Donetsk also in Group F, City appeared to have one of the kinder draws but is now playing catch-up.
Celebrating a decade under Abu Dhabi ownership, which allowed City to assemble a squad for more than $1 billion, the Champions League is the one big prize the club has yet to win.
But City fans still have a fraught relationship with Europe’s premier competition.