Aggression and animated displays of joy shouldn’t be removed from the sport
“It can’t keep happening, because I’m letting the team down and I’m letting myself down,” said Kagiso Rabada.
“It just can’t keep happening and that’s why it hurts so much,” he added about missing the fourth Test against England at his home ground.
“It can’t happen anymore,” Graeme Smith, Cricket SA’s interim Director of Cricket, said on Wednesday. “We cannot have our gun bowler missing games.”
Well, at least everyone, Mark Boucher and Faf du Plessis included, is agreeing that “it” – Rabada getting banned or incurring demerit points – “can’t keep happening”.
They’re right, of course. There is also the need for clarity and consistency from the International Cricket Council about its disciplinary system and the fact that instituting that kind of punishment risks taking away an element of Test cricket that makes it such an enticing spectacle.
Aggression and animated displays of joy shouldn’t be removed from the sport.
The ICC risks looking like the overseers of a nanny state if they continue in this sort of manner.
That doesn’t absolve Rabada of any responsibility, as he, Smith and the leadership of the team have acknowledged.
He certainly hasn’t helped himself in the past and was somewhat fortunate in the incident involving Steve Smith also in Port Elizabeth two years ago.
Rabada also claimed to have learned a lesson from that incident, although this time it really does feel like the last straw.
All fast bowlers operate on the edge; it’s what makes them such thrilling athletes to observe.
Rabada needs to stay on the right side of that edge, though, and not make it quite so much about shoving it in the opposing team’s faces when he is successful would be a good place to start.
It’s a crucial match that he is missing, it’s at his home ground and there is no doubting his importance to the Proteas team.
Smith raised another important point on Wednesday.
Rabada is very much the poster boy of South African cricket: His face is everywhere, he does seem to be in all the TV ads and does a lot of media work.
“We need to develop more poster boys,” said Smith.
“I think it is a good thing he is being rested in the One-Dayers because it gives others an opportunity to step up, to fill that void.
“Maybe that will start taking some pressure off him.”
Indeed, this is a Proteas team devoid of star quality – it’s really just Rabada and Quinton de Kock and the latter has now been asked to captain the limited overs team, too. Creating new stars is critical for the sport in this country at a stage when there has been far too much publicity about bad administration.
And hopefully this period out of the spotlight will allow Rabada time to reflect about his nature on the field. The aggression must remain, but it needs to be channelled better.