CAPE TOWN – Australian captain Steve Smith has criticised the decision to overturn a ban on South African fast bowler Kagiso Rabada for making physical contact with him.
Smith said ahead of Wednesday’s pre-Test press conference that a “line in the sand” had been drawn regarding physical contact, and said he was surprised he had not been asked his opinion during the appeal hearing.
Having been banned for the remaining two Tests in the series for brushing against Smith’s shoulder after taking his wicket in the second Test, Rabada was cleared to play in the third Test starting on Thursday after a successful appeal.
Australia spin bowler Nathan Lyon had said the team had “no dramas” with the decision, but Smith has told cricket.com.au website: “I certainly think he (Rabada) bumped me a little bit harder than it actually looked on the footage.”
Although Smith claimed “it didn’t bother me too much,” he went on to say: “They’ve obviously decided what’s deliberate contact and what’s not, and apparently it wasn’t.
“The ICC have set the standard, haven’t they? There was clearly contact out in the middle.
“I certainly won’t be telling my bowlers to go out there and after you take a wicket, go and get in their space. I don’t think that is on and part of the game. But the standard has been set.”
Rabada was initially given three demerit points for the incident in Port Elizabeth by match referee Jeff Crowe, triggering an automatic two-Test ban.
But judicial commissioner Michael Heron said he was not completely satisfied that the contact was deliberate and reduced the charge to acting against the spirit of the game, imposing a one-point penalty, which took Rabada one point below the threshold for the ban.
He will therefore line up for the Proteas at Newlands as they seek the edge in a series tied at one-match apiece.
Smith said it was “interesting” he had not been asked for his version of events, and said Crowe had reason to be annoyed about his judgement being questioned.
“The way he handled both sides throughout the two Test matches, I thought he did a terrific job. I’d be feeling a bit annoyed if I was him, to be perfectly honest.”
Smith said he and senior Australia players, Lyon and David Warner, had spoken to incoming match referee Andy Pycroft, who will handle the remaining two Tests of what has been an often bad-tempered series.
He said the referee would also speak to Proteas captain Faf du Plessis “just to ensure that the series is continued to play in pretty good spirit.”