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.


THE OPEN, DAY TWO: Who is contending at Carnoustie?

Updated 32 min 23 sec ago
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THE OPEN, DAY TWO: Who is contending at Carnoustie?

SECOND ROUND: Several stars started the second round with work to do, the cut mark looks like it will be at the 3-over or 2-over mark. Tiger Woods, Phil MIckelson and Jordan Spieth are all over par so need a decent round to stay for the weekend. It is wet in Scotland, for the first time in a while, here is how the big names are faring...

ZACH JOHNSON, 6-under 

The 2015 champion again showed he is to be feared on links courses as he fired a fine 4-under 67 to tak the clubhouse lead. One of the best putters around he will surely be in the mix come Sunday. "Everything is coming together to a point where I should be in contention more often," the American said. 

TOMMY FLEETWOOD, 5-under 

The Englishman came into the tournament as one of the favorites and on the evidence of this round it is not hard to see why. The course record holder (set last year) fired a brilliant 6-under 65, can he get his hands on a first Major this weekend? "We are only two days in, come Sunday I would like to be in the same spot. You put all the practice in for this and you have to go out and play golf, but it is easier said than done," he said. 

RORY MCILROY, 4-under 

Another solid round for the 2014 champion, he played within himself, but would have wlaked off the course thinking of what might have been. He gave himself plenty of birdie opportunities but is not far off the lead and will doubtless fancy his chances, especially if he can make a few more putts. "Right now I am feeling good about it," he said. 

DUSTIN JOHNSON, 6-over

The American came arrived at Carnoustie as the favorite but left as the first world No. 1 not to make the cut since Luke Donald in 2011. A one-over 72 was not enough to repair the damage done by his opening 76 on Thursday. 

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FIRST ROUND: That's it then, everyone has had a go at this famous old course and it is American Kevin Kisner who leads on -5 after the first day. Northern Ireland's hope Rory McIlroy sits three shots back on -2, and after a topsy-turvy round, Tiger Woods is level.

It was not such a good day for 2017 winner Jordan Spieth, who dropped four shots on the final four holes to finish +1 for the day. Here's a look at the biggest names and how they fared on day one...

DUSTIN JOHNSON, 5-over

He came in as a lot of people's favorite to win the Open Championship, but the American world No. 1 has had an afternoon to forget. Never finding his rhythm, he shot a five-over-par 76 and now faces a massive uphill struggle just to make the weekend. Hope for the rest of the field...

TIGER WOODS, Even-par

The 14-time Major winner finished off his first round with a par, and he's level par for the day too. A very neat and tidy round of 71 for the American, and he looked a more composed and in-control figure than he has done of late. His successful holes were met with raucuous cheers, might be a crowd favorite for the Claret Jug?


KEVIN KISNER, 5-under

The American was the early leader firing a 66 in the early benign conditions. The world No.33 was not thought of as a possible winner, his best finish at an Open was tied for 54th last year. Can he stay near the top of the leaderboard until Sunday?

 

RORY MCILROY, 2-under

Looking for his first Major in four years the world No.8 started with a solid round of 69. Two-under for the tricky back nine will give him confidence heading into the second round as he goes in search of his second Claret Jug. 



DANNY WILLETT, 2-under

The Englishman has endured a torrid time since he memorably won the Green Jacket two years ago. But a recent upturn in form continued at Carnoustie and it would not be a shock to see him up near the top of the leaderboard into the weekend.



JON RAHM, 2-under

The tempestuous Spaniard has all you need to win a Major, but is yet to get his hands on one of the top-four prizes. He made a good start in Scotland, carding a 69 in a round that featured only two birdies. He will fancy his chances of contending come Sunday evening.



RICKIE FOWLER, 1-under

Three birdies and two bogeys saw the American open up with a solid, if unspectacular round. The world No. 7 has long down well on links courses so expect him to make a challenge on Friday and Saturday in a bid to win he first Major.



JORDAN SPIETH, 1-over

It all started so well for the defending champion. He was 3-under through 11 and looking set for the clubhouse lead. But then disaster struck on the 15th where a double bogey was followed up with bogeys on 16 and 17 to leave him to card a 72.



JUSTIN ROSE, 1-over


A birdie at the last would have at least left him leaving the court with a smile, but deep down he would know that being one of the earlier starters he should have done better than an up-and-down round of 72. He is desperate to add to his one Major and he has work to do if he is to get Major No. 2 this week.



PATRICK REED, 4-over

The Masters champion talked a good game coming into the tournament (when does he not?). But he was left scratching his head after a 75 left him well off the pace at Carnoustie. He never really got going after a double bogey at the second left him playing catch up, a bogey on the last summed up his day.