JOHANNESBURG – Would it be so hard for the Australian players, when on the field, to just, you know, shut up?
It was picked up by some commentators late on day one of that Port Elizabeth Test that the only time the umpires - more awake following the incidents during the first Test - felt the need to step in between players was when it was the Australians on the field.
The tourists had been bowled out midway through the final session. And when Kagiso Rabada went out to bat as nightwatchman, a few of the Australians, with David Warner (surprise surprise) at the forefront, felt the need to - as Rabada put it afterwards - “chirp a lot”.
Through the opening two matches of the series - and even before, in the warm-up match in Benoni against an SA A side - it’s been the Australians who’ve sought to set the boundaries in which this series with South Africa is being played. So in Benoni it was okay, for Mitchell Starc to continuously sledge Wiaan Mulder after the Australians heard he’d been picked in the Test squad. Before the Durban game it was okay for Steve Smith to say his team would target Rabada because he was close to being banned for racking up disciplinary points.
The Australians set the line which they “head-butt”, but which Quinton de Kock - in Australia’s estimation - crossed, because he was the only one who said something personal.
With those boundaries set, Faf du Plessis felt it was all right to say Warner would be targeted after he’d stacked up demerit points for the stairwell incident at Kingsmead - because well Smith had said something similar a few weeks earlier.
Then Smith has the temerity on Tuesday to complain about the Rabada ban being overturned because he never got to have his say to the International Cricket Council’s independent commissioner - again Australia wanting to set boundaries.
So for Smith and the Australian team’s sake, all these "lines" and boundaries would be so much simpler to define, if, when on the field, they’d just shut up. Outside of encouraging your own teammates - eg "Come on, Starccie" - don’t say anything.
Don’t throw the ball on or near a prone batsman who’s just been run out, don’t scream like a loon at a kid involved in that run-out, don’t be mouthing off ball after ball at the opposition batsmen, don’t engage in “just banter, but nothing personal”.
Don’t do it, and maybe the other team’s players won’t feel provoked into doing anything either and if they do say something, sledge you, “bump” you “a little bit harder than it actually looked on the footage”, then Steve, you’ll have the higher ground.
Some peace and quiet would be nice at Newlands, the message to the Australians, as the kids these days like to put it - STFU.