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

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.

BMW’s Antonio Felix da Costa crowned champion at Saudi Arabia's Ad Diriyah E-Prix

Updated 15 December 2018

BMW’s Antonio Felix da Costa crowned champion at Saudi Arabia's Ad Diriyah E-Prix

  • The Portuguese driver held on for victory ahead of Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Jerome d’Ambrosio in the Mahindra car
  • Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi had the best start on the grid

AD DIRIYAH, Riyadh: Antonio Felix da Costa praised his BMW garage but said there is still a lot of work for him and the team to do in this year’s Formula E season after winning the inaugural Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday.

Da Costa was on pole from the beginning of the race and led away from the line, despite lining up at the front of the grid pointing toward the outside wall at a dusty and overcast Ad Diriyah circuit.

The Portuguese driver held on for victory ahead of Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Jerome d’Ambrosio in the Mahindra car.

Da Costa told Arab News that the new “cooler and futuristic” Gen 2 car gives drivers more power, stability and grip, and that there was “a lot to take in” during the race.

“It is a new car, a new track, a new way of racing, (with) ‘Attack Mode’, and I got the ‘Fan Boost’ for the first time, so there were a lot of things to do and as a team and we executed so well, so I think that is why we won today because we were not the quickest car but we just had a perfect race.

“It is amazing, it’s been really tough and long months of work, but I am really happy with that,” da Costa added.

“We definitely have some work to do as the two Techeetah cars were really fast, and even with (Vergne’s) drive through penalty, he was right there at the end.

“But it’s a good start and we’ll keep working on that and try to keep it going,” he added.

When asked about BMW being involved in Formula E as a factory team for the first time, da Costa said: “It hasn’t been easy the last two years, but as I said it has been a lot work between Indianapolis with Andretti and Munich with BMW, it is great to see and I am so happy for everyone back in Munich.”

Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi had the best start on the grid after he blasted by Jose Maria Lopez around the outside of the first corner from third place.

The front four pulled away from the rest of the pack, before Vergne — who started the race in fifth — passed Lopez on lap one of what would become a 33-lap race, with his teammate Andre Lotterer also getting past the Geox Dragon driver.

As da Costa consolidated his lead, Vergne was closing in on Buemi, eventually passing him in a great move around the outside on lap nine. The Frenchman then set about reeling in da Costa, with the Portuguese offering fierce resistance.

Vergne was then forced to serve drive-through penalties – just after he had used his first “attack mode” – for going exceeding the permitted power while using his “re-gen,” which put paid to him getting a victory.

Reigning champion Vergne, while impressed with the venue, was philosophical after the race.

“I was really hungry for a victory today, but the qualifying in the morning did not go as planned.

“Unfortunately, it was a step down from where I wanted to be, I wanted to win this one. 

“I had a fantastic car, it was incredibly fast, but a big congratulations to the BMW guys and Antonio, it was a well-deserved victory.

“What I will take as a positive from this weekend is that we have a strong team and a very strong car and I am very motivated.

“Going forward, we just need to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes that cost us the win today, but it’s a very encouraging first race and I’m looking forward to Marrakech now.”

On his drive through penalty, he said: “Yes, I had quite a few overtakes on the outside, on the inside, but it was a fun race, I honestly had a lot of fun. 

“I’m content with P2 today, and hoping to keep this package (on the car) and hopefully get some victories.”
Meanwhile, third-placed d’Ambrosio was delighted with his finish to the race.

“I am super happy, it was a great first race with Mahindra and a great start to the championship, I am lucky to be part of such a great team with some great people.

“I have come from two difficult years, so it’s great to start this new relationship with the team in this way. We worked very hard in the past few months to be ready, I think we were very fast but at the end of the race I didn’t have the confidence in the braking.

“But it makes a great to start to the season, with the podium and banking the points, and we’ll see what happens now.”

When asked about the new “attack mode” in Formula E, he said: “It is great, I actually wasn’t supposed to use it at that point of the race (when I did), but I had a good feeling and I saw Techeetah use it and start to build a gap, so I went for it and when the safety car came in I used it again.”