The cricket world reacted with equal parts shock and dismay at the news that Kagiso Rabada will be out of the second Test against England, due to a foul-mouthed breach of conduct towards Ben Stokes at Lord’s.
Former South African captain Graeme Smith was one of the loudest critics of the decision to the one-match ban meted out by the International Cricket Council (ICC), and he questioned where the game goes next after this.
“I cannot see how the ICC are going to be consistent with this in future,” Smith exclusively told Independent Media at Lord’s on Saturday.
“I know we speak about spirit of the game, and being role models, but just about every player has used a swear word in frustration out in the middle.
“It is part of the game, and I think Kagiso wasn’t directing that at Stokes, but rather at being frustrated in the way things had been going in general.”
Smith bemoaned the fact that the ICC had made an issue out of something that had hardly caused a murmur when it occurred.
“No one wrote about it, no one commented about it, no one heard anything about it until the ICC came out with a statement. I think they have made a big mistake, and you can see from the reaction of people,” Smith pointed out.
“The game needs our best players playing, and I know there are a lot of people who have come out to see Rabada bowl. That is disappointing,” he continued.
Smith also went back to Rabada’s first disciplinary issue, when he had a heated altercation with Niroshan Dickwella of Sri Lanka, earlier this year.
That gave him three demerit points, and a tight-rope to negotiate. His indiscretion on Friday, clearly picked up by the stump microphone, pushed him to four points, which is an automatic one-game ban.
“I think the first demerit points he got was not right in the first place. I really feel he has been harshly dealt with,” Smith sympathised.
Casting a wider eye on the game, South Africa’s longest-serving captain suggested that the game ought to be focusing on other concerns creeping into the five-day game.
“I think there are bigger issues that need focus. Michael Vaughan (former England captain) was talking about slow over-rates, and maybe that is where the real concern and focus should be, to keep people coming to watch Test cricket,” Smith warned.