Cricket’s disgracefully weak, shameful piss take
THERE is absolutely no way Kagiso Rabada should be bowling against Australia in the third Test in Cape Town starting on Thursday.
That he will be is a slap in the face to cricket players and fans everywhere. They've been taken for a ride.
Rabada escaped suspension for bumping Steve Smith's shoulder after dismissing the Aussie captain in the second Test in Port Elizabeth.
Initially slapped with a two-match ban because his latest breach of the ICC Code of Conduct saw him rack up enough demerit points to warrant suspension, the legal eagles helped Cricket South Africa (CSA) overturn the ban.
A six hour-long appeal earlier in the week - in which barrister Dali Mpofu spearheaded the paceman's defence - resulted in independent Judicial Commissioner Mike Heron QC deciding Rabada didn't make "inappropriate and deliberate physical contact" with Smith.
Instead, Heron found Rabada guilty of the lesser crime of conduct contrary to the spirit of the game because his actions were "inappropriate, lacked respect for his fellow player and involved non-deliberate and minor contact".
What a load of crap.
That the ICC chose to back Heron rather than respected match referee Jeff Crowe - who handed down the original penalty of three demerit points - is an indictment on the game.
The decision split the cricket world. Former international captains Michael Vaughan and Graeme Smith were thrilled common sense prevailed while ex-England batsman and coach David Lloyd was dismayed.
Those in favour of the decision are running with the argument Rabada's inclusion is good for the Test series currently underway - and in that sense, they are 100 per cent right. Watching Rabada bowl is one of the most exciting sights in the sport, so as a cricket purist, it's only positive we get to see him in action again and add further spice to a gripping contest where he's already terrorised Australia.
But just because he's an outstanding player it doesn't mean exceptions should be made for him. If a part-time medium pacer from Zimbabwe shoulder charged Smith, would we all be raving about how should be let off because cricket would be worse without him?
I highly doubt it.
Rabada received one demerit point for his reduced offence rather than the three Crowe originally pinned him with. To put that in perspective, he also received one demerit point for telling Ben Stokes to "f*** off" in 2017, and copped the same punishment for waving Shikhar Dhawan off the field in a one-dayer against India this year.
I argue those offences didn't warrant punishment in the first place - but the ICC disagreed. One curse word and a finger wag were - inexplicably, in this hack's view - deemed to have breached the spirit of cricket, but now the governing body is telling us a shoulder barge didn't?
Give us a break.
Those in Rabada's corner using the justification Smith did nothing to avoid contact with the fiery quick are off the mark. It's not his job. He was walking in a straight line and not even looking at the 22-year-old.
Rabada, on the other hand, made eye contact with the skipper and screamed. There were several metres between the pair when he locked onto his target. He knew exactly what he was doing, and he went too far.
Regardless of what Vernon Philander (or his "hackers") tweeted, if anyone had the responsibility of avoiding contact, it was Rabada - and he failed, clear and simple.
Rabada himself admitted he'd made a mistake, as did teammates Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers. The ICC should have too, and punished him accordingly.
Plenty of pundits have said Rabada's exuberant screaming after taking a wicket is a far greater problem than the sledging that's tainted the series. But in cricket - as everyone who's ever played the game knows - when it comes to physical contact, there is no grey area. It's just not on.
The ICC has been shamefully weak and disrespectful in buckling to pressure to spare Rabada.
His energy is a breath of fresh air Test cricket needs - I'm not suggesting he should be punished for being passionate. Scream and yell as much as you want, but don't touch anyone. That's not passion, that's just against the rules.
Rabada has been charged five times in 14 months. By allowing him to get off with his latest indiscretion, how will he ever learn what's appropriate on a cricket field?
The backflip is a disgraceful look for the game and means next time the sport wants to come down hard on those who have "crossed the line" in the sledging department, it won't have a leg to stand on.
This time, it's cricket that's crossed the line - how are we supposed to trust it ever again?