JOHANNESBURG - In modern sport players/athletes are not just coached about their particular game and skills, but about how to act on and off the field too.
Sports stars are role-models and they need to be made aware of that constantly, which can lead to the creation of robots. Personality is lost and sportsmen just run, kick, throw, hit and catch, and, when it’s all done, thank their sponsors and leave.
That is rightly boring. Sport needs personalities. In this day and age where there is so much distraction, sport needs its participants to show off that personality. They need to get angry, show passion, occasionally have a laugh, drop some interesting titbit about themselves, and engage with fans.
But there is a line.
I don’t want Kagiso Rabada to lose that competitive streak of his. It makes him the bowler and cricketer that he is, and a very fine one at that. The world’s best fast bowler at the age of just 22.
But Rabada is clearly not learning the lessons about channelling his anger properly. Of the three incidents for which he’s been sanctioned by the ICC in the last year, two were just plain ridiculous. That brush with Niroshan Dickwella, that the ICC claim was a push, and shouting "f*** off" after dismissing Ben Stokes at Lord’s should never have reached the level where disciplinary action was required or taken.
The Dickwella incident barely registered as "a touch" never mind a push, while the Stokes incident needed to be seen in context - it was a frustrating part of the game for South Africa and the bowler himself, who played well with no reward. Besides he never shouted it at Stokes - it was a letting off of steam, if you will.
The incident on Tuesday following Rabada’s dismissal of Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan was out of order though. There’s no need to wave the batsman off and say "bye bye" and then appear to mouth "f*** off" again.
Rabada’s better than that. That wasn’t a display of competitiveness, it was childish, and unlike the Dickwella and Stokes incidents he deserved to be punished.
Rabada is still young, his journey as a professional cricketer has just begun, and hopefully someone - SA coach Ottis Gibson perhaps - sits down with him and points to the error of what he did on Tuesday.
He is a great personality and a fiery competitor, and those elements of his character can still come through when he plays. But he can cut out the juvenile "send offs", they’re unnecessary, they don’t make him a better bowler, all he does is decrease the respect the opposition and public will have for him.