DURBAN - Highveld Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana knows Kagiso Rabada better than most. He has watched the lithe assassin shoot the ranks, going from promising youngster to leader of the pack in a matter of two and a bit years.
It appears that when it comes to Rabada, everything happens in a hurry. Everything, in this case, includes the manner his rap sheet has escalated out of control, which is one thing Toyana is wary of going the wrong way.
“I feel for the boy because you know where that comes from,” he stated.
Toyana is adamant that cricket has to have the personalities who entertain, bowlers who thrill with their skill as well as with their demonstrative range of reactions on the field.
After all, the game’s lifeblood is inextricably linked to the creation of new stars to carry the torch for the next generation of curious observers.
As things stand, the game is in danger of blunting the edge from the duels that captivate audiences.
“If you are a fast bowler, it is in your nature to have that fire. You are running in all day, and you have to celebrate when you eventually get what you have been working towards,” Toyana insisted.
He went further than that, in fact, pointing out that the rules as they stand are in danger of snuffing out whatever passion there is in a game that lives and breathes by the bums on seats that are attracted by a once in a generation talent like Rabada.
“The one thing that you want more than anything else is a bit of consistency. We played India earlier in the summer and we all saw Virat Kohli screaming and shouting at every single batsman who was dismissed,” Toyana reminded.
The India captain, seemingly a law unto himself, gesticulated at every opportunity, making sure his feelings on the state of play were clear for all to see.
It was not dissimilar to the antics of David Warner when AB de Villiers was run out in Durban by the Aussie vice-captain.
“That consistency is all that you want to see because it feels like some guys are getting punished quicker than others,” Toyana maintained.
The recent antics in Sri Lanka, where Bangladesh and Sri Lanka clashed, have arguably brought more disrepute to the game than Rabada’s exuberant celebrations on his way to leading the wicket-taking charts in the ongoing series against Australia, but the headlines have followed the South African speedster.
Rabada’s suspension for two Test matches has irked many more personalities beyond South African borders because a series without the top-ranked bowler in Test cricket would be a contest watered down from what it could be.
Former international captains such as Michael Vaughan and Graeme Smith voiced their dissatisfaction at seeing a character like Rabada sidelined.
Mike Atherton, no stranger to a word of advice from opposing fast bowlers, suggested that the International Cricket Council ought to be punishing sledgers rather than snuffing out the competitive flames that rage within players like Rabada.
If nothing else comes of Rabada’s appeal tomorrow, his case has at least shed much-needed light on the need for the suits in the game to take a long, hard look at themselves and the laws that govern a game that is not immune to dwindling audiences and other sporting codes attracting its market.
The practicality of the carry-over of demerit points is another bone of contention for many curious observers, who have pointed to other sports wiping the slate clean once a punishment has been meted out for previous transgressions.
If cricket is to maintain its relevance, it has to move with the times and address these gremlins in its fragile system. There are certainly far bigger problems than a young fast bowler celebrating his triumphs too close to his victims.
“I don’t think ‘KG’ has a problem,” Toyana concluded. “That fire in him is good because it allows him to be the fast bowler he is. He has been bowling better than ever and it is sad for fans and for the team that he is looking like missing out on the rest of the series.”
Even though there is a break from the action, the fiery argument around Rabada has heated up by the day as observers wonder why a sport would put out one of its brightest lights just as it shimmers brighter still.