Cape Town — South African sports fans love nothing more than a cause to unite them. To rally together when they feel that one of their own has been done an injustice.
Think Caster Semenya and the eligibility challenges she faced to compete in women’s events due to her naturally elevated levels of testosterone. South Africa was ready to go to war to get Semenya back on the track.
And then there was Kagiso Rabada’s case after he was suspended for “brushing” the shoulder of Australia captain Steve Smith.
This past week “Cricket Twitter” could not help reminding the ICC about Rabada after England seam bowler Ollie Robinson’s send-off of Australia's Usman Khawaja in the on-going first Test of the Ashes.
Even though the Ashes had absolutely nothing to do with South Africa, there was umbrage on local social media. Fans were incensed that Robinson could unleash a verbal tirade that included “F*** off, you f***ing prick!" on Khawaja, who had just struck a masterful century, and called on the ICC to throw the book at the big England fast bowler.
Just like they had also done when Rabada was fined for “using language which could provoke an aggressive reaction from another player” in the send-off of England captain Joe Root back in 2020.
At this stage, the ICC have yet to punish Robinson for his actions, although it's unlikely to be more than one demerit point and 15% of his match fee — the identical punishment issued to Rabada.
I feel though it deserves a greater sanction. And that has nothing to with any patriarchal bias or injustices towards Rabada.
It relates more to Robinson’s post-game comments. The England fast bowler has been completely unapologetic for his behaviour. Simply part of the “passion of the Ashes”.
Of course, we’ve all heard the now infamous Michael Clarke sledge to James Anderson when the former Australian captain politely informed the England fast bowler to “Face up then. Get ready for a broken f***n arm. Face up.”.
Over the years of highly-charged Ashes Tests that may be among the milder comments that have been uttered and what adds to the “theatre of the game” — as Robinson alludes to.
But for me, Robinson crosses that imaginary line. Khawaja’s wicket was undoubtedly “massive” for England in the context of the match, and he was entitled to celebrate it in the heat of the moment, but at no stage does it need to get personal.
Nor does he need to try and back it up with macho post-game statements.
🗣️ "Words have consequences"— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) June 19, 2023
The Ashes panel discuss Ollie Robinson saying he does not care about his celebration after bowling Usman Khawaja... pic.twitter.com/3zYdAM2ix3
England are looking to revive Test cricket in the way they play the game. “Bazball’ and all that. They want to maintain the current viewership, while attracting new spectators to the game.
That audience is undoubtedly female and children. And there is no way that such behaviour can be condoned if that’s your target market.
Robinson was way off brand — as the marketers like to say — and it's for this reason that I hope the ICC’s sanction reminds him of the greater responsibility he has to those watching the game.