Players might not be perfect, but nor are cricket authorities

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

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.