PORT ELIZABETH – Kagiso Rabada was consigned to his fate even before the ICC slapped him with a two-match ban on Monday, which effectively brought the curtain down on the star fast bowler’s participation in this epic tussle with Australia.
Although crestfallen with the verdict, Rabada maintains he is innocent.
Speaking to the media after completing an Aussie demolition job that brought him 11 wickets and the Man-of-the-Match award in the second Test, Rabada knew he was unlikely to escape the charge of “inappropriate and deliberate physical contact with a player” levelled against him after his shirt brushed Australian captain Steve Smith’s shoulder in the first innings at St George’s Park.
According to the ICC’s rules, the 22-year-old was fined 50% of his match fee and issued with three demerit points by match referee Jeff Crowe.
This took Rabada up to eight points within the last 24 months.
The ruling therefore activates a two-Test ban, meaning Rabada will play no part in the forthcoming Newlands and Wanderers showdowns.
South Africa have 48 hours to appeal the verdict.
“If I do get banned, I’ll have to see it as a big learning curve and not keep ‘repeating the same mistakes’ in the eyes of the umpires. I’m not happy about it, but time moves on.” @KagisoRabada25 #SAvAUS #ProteaFire #SunfoilTest pic.twitter.com/3UNbmZeQGl
“Yeah, it’s bittersweet,” Rabada said after claiming the fourth 10-wicket haul of his career.
“Especially coming off a performance like that, I felt really good in this Test match. I let the team down. It’s going to have to stop.
“I can’t keep doing this because I am letting the team down and I am letting myself down. I would have loved to be playing in the next game.”
Although Crowe believes Rabada’s actions was “inappropriate and deliberate” and that he “had the opportunity to avoid the contact”, the fast bowler is steadfast in his belief that he was not trying to shoulder-charge the Australian skipper.
“I won’t change the way I express myself, I will just stay as far away from the batter,” Rabada stressed.
“There’s a lot of grey areas as well, but the rules are the rules. The reason why we went to a hearing was because we believe that there’s not a lot of consistency. If I knew I had done it deliberately, then I would not have gone to contest. But honestly I never even felt contact in that moment, because I was so pumped up.
“I never felt contact at all. It’s the same as at Lord’s with the (Ben) Stokes incident. I never tried to appeal that one because I knew that I did it.
“It’s going to need to stop, because I’m letting the team down. I’m also letting myself down.”
Rabada’s captain, Faf du Plessis certainly doesn’t want his spearhead to change his spots, but does believe he may “have to get a bit smarter”.
“For me, the way KG plays the game, he is a competitive fast bowler. He works bloody hard. He runs in and bowls quick for a long periods of time,” the Proteas skipper said. “So, when he gets big wickets, that’s a celebration, that’s energy, that’s passion. For me, it’s pure passion!
“Obviously these days the attention has focused on what is allowed, what is not allowed, I just think that has changed so much over a year or two. Two or three years ago, that was the norm. If you know KG’s character, he is not a guy like that. KG will probably have to get a bit smarter when he celebrates a wicket. I don’t think he does anything wrong.”
Du Plessis is also befuddled by the manner in which the ICC are implementing the rules.
During the recently-concluded India series, visiting captain Virat Kohli was seen after virtually every wicket giving South African players “send-offs”, but no action was taken.
“I think that’s the biggest concern. Everyone just wants consistency. One match referee interprets it one way and the other in another way. If you make it so sensitive, guys will interpret it the wrong way,” Du Plessis said when discussing the battle for consistency among umpires and match referees.
“I think we’re going on the sensitive side with everything at the moment. Every single incident is on camera... it’s Test cricket.
“As I’ve said, we have no issues with the way the Australian team plays their brand of cricket. It’s good for the game of Test cricket.
“People talk about where Test cricket is going. For me, the small battles are important.
“It’s about KG running in for 15 overs trying to get someone out and when he does, he has to show some sort of passion. Otherwise you can just put a bowling machine out there and a robot to bat.”
Rabada had a further disciplinary charge hanging over his head on Monday, with another demerit point issued to him for his celebration upon dismissing David Warner on Sunday.
Rabada’s demerit point history
February 2017: Three demerit points v Sri Lanka for inappropriate and deliberate physical contact
July 2017: One demerit point v England for a send-off offence (One match suspension / four accumulated demerit points)
February 2018: One demerit point v India for a send-off offence
March 2018: Three demerit points v Australia for inappropriate and deliberate physical contact (Two match suspension / eight accumulated demerit points)
March 2018: One demerit point v Australia for a send-off offence