Former England bowler Gladstone Small cautions against taking emotion out of cricket
Former England fast bowler Gladstone Small believes the International Cricket Council will need to rethink their demerit points system or risk taking all emotion out of the game.
Virat Kohli looks set to escape a series of bad behaviours during the second Test against New Zealand, where he apparently swore at and mocked the crowd, before launching a verbal attack on Black Caps captain Kane Williamson.
Yet South African speedster Kagiso Rabada was handed one demerit point - and a subsequent ban - for celebrating Joe Root’s wicket in the third Test against England in Port Elizabeth in January, for “using language, actions or gestures which disparage or which could provoke an aggressive reaction from a batter upon his or her dismissal during an international match”.
Many feel Rabada has been unfairly targeted by the ICC, but the South African certainly has a big fan in Small, who played 17 Tests and 53 ODIs for England between 1986 and 1992.
“I really like Rabada ... it’s a pity he had to miss that last Test match against England on what was probably the pitch best suited to him,” Small reflects. “The ban he got was ridiculous … that would have been nothing back when I was playing.
“To play at your best, you have to play on the edge. You’re playing a really intense game, you’re playing for your country, you’re playing in front of big crowds, and yet you want them to behave like pussycats.
“I saw a bowler who took a wicket with a very good piece of bowling. Root may have thought the ball kept low, but I thought he got done by the length and pace. And getting the captain out and their best batsman as well, then letting out a big roar without even looking at Root or confronting him …? Surely common sense must prevail??
“A batsman who scores a hundred, he’s allowed to run down the wicket and jump in the air, rip his helmet off and all sorts of stuff to celebrate what he’s just achieved, but a bowler roars in delight when getting a wicket and he gets banned? It’s just silly … rubbish. It’s not what I want to see as a cricket fan. When you start taking emotion out of the game … that’s a big problem.”
Small lands in South Africa this week as a member of the Lord’s Taverners Celebrity Cricket XI, and will play two matches in Cape Town alongside the likes of Mike Gatting, David Gower and Andy Caddick while also promoting Table Cricket (https://www.lordstaverners.org/how-we-help/charitable-programmes/table-cricket/), an initiative which gives mentally and physically handicapped people a chance to participate in an adapted version of the game.
“Anything that gets cricket being played in and around the community has my support,” Small says. “Then obviously the fact that anyone with physical or learning disabilities can get play Table Cricket and get involved, mix and mingle with their peers and friends … the social interaction that it brings is very good to see.”
Small has some close ties with South Africa, having played alongside two of the country’s greatest ever bowlers.
“I played a bit with Shaun Pollock when he came over to Warwickshire as a young, tearaway fast bowler, and also a lot with Allan Donald. I saw him come over and develop into not only a great bowler, but a great guy also. He came over from Bloemfontein, couldn’t speak a word of English and had no dress sense whatsoever - it looked like he had come out from behind a bush! But he became a serious fast bowler, and it’s great to see the career he went on to enjoy.”
* The Lord’s Taverners charity celebrity cricket team and supporters will be in Cape Town to support Lord’s Taverners SA at the Sporting Legends Dinner at Kelvin Grove on March 7. The event will be hosted by Dan Nicholl, and will include chats from cricket legends like David Gower, Gladstone Small, Mike Gatting, Andy Caddick and Vincent van Der Bijl, as well as rugby stars Rob Andrew and George Chuter. Proceeds will go towards Lord’s Taverners SA’s various charity projects.