PORT ELIZABETH – “Whose line is it anyway?”
That may be the title of a popular American sitcom, but more pertinently, it is the question Proteas coach Ottis Gibson is posing to the International Cricket Council after the fracas that engulfed the first Test in Durban.
Although the ICC have already hit Australian vice-captain David Warner with a Level 2 charge equating to three demerit points and 75% of his match fee for his part in the stairwell confrontation with Proteas wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock, Gibson believes the match officials have a bigger role to play in order for these types of incidents to be avoided.
It is for this reason that the Proteas management are contesting the Level 1 charge issued to De Kock at a hearing that will be convened by ICC match referee Jeff Crowe in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday evening.
The Australians, though, have accepted Warner’s censure due to him being free to play in the second Test starting here at St George’s Park on Friday.
Four demerit points would have led to an automatic suspension of one Test or two ODIs or T20Is.
“We appealing the Level 1 because we believe Quinny didn’t do anything. Quinny wasn’t aggressive – you saw some footage, and the footage showed Quinny walking up the stairs and somebody else (Warner) being restrained, and then Quinny gets a Level 1… That didn’t seem fair,” Gibson explained.
“Quinny wouldn’t have said anything if something wasn’t said to him first in the first place. I wasn’t out there, Faf was there, he would probably know what was said.
“You have all seen the footage. If I’m walking up the stairs and someone else is being restrained, how can you fine me for something?”
Gibson would not comment on whether De Kock was entirely silent, or indeed said anything about Warner’s wife as the Australians are suggesting, but instead chose to challenge his counterpart Darren Lehmann’s comments about the mythical moral line that exists on the field.
“Can you say whatever you can and then when something is said back to you then it’s offensive? You didn’t tell us where the line was. Let’s be clear where the line is…
I think everybody just needs to focus on cricket. Calm down and get back to cricket.” - Gibson #ProteaFire pic.twitter.com/orBGkAeZOK
“I can’t categorically speak for another person, so I don’t know what was said. There’s this thing I have seen recently about ‘the line’. They say they never crossed the line, but where is the line? Who sets the line? Where does it come from?
“But when you say ‘We haven’t crossed the line’, you said stuff but you never crossed the line, you went very close, but you never crossed it – whose line is it?
“Our line... we don’t have a line, we are just trying to play cricket.
“The match officials and the ICC, they govern the game, and the umpires on the field must take charge of the game.
“If things are being said and it’s in within earshot of the player who is standing at point or wherever he is fielding, surely the umpires can hear.
“So, maybe umpires must stand up and take control of the game.”
Although Lehmann’s proposed captains and coaches meeting to discuss the way forward for both teams has yet to take place, Gibson also wanted to move on from the Durban drama and for his team to focus on the challenge ahead, especially as they look to level the series here at the country’s oldest stadium, St George’s Park.
“I think everyone needs to focus on the cricket. Calm down and get back to cricket. I am telling them (my team) to play cricket,” he said.
“I am happy with aggression when it is fast bowlers bowling bouncers. That to me is aggression.
“But when it’s sledging, chirping... I don’t think that’s aggression. If a fast bowler is trying to intimidate a batsman through bouncers, that’s aggression. That’s how I learnt the game growing up in the Caribbean.
“Obviously things change, but when everybody is around you taking guard, and people are standing around and shouting and whatever, I am not sure that is necessary in my book.”