Kagiso Rabada celebrates taking the wicket of Australia’s Shaun Marsh. Photo: Reuters

There is a danger, given the tempestuous start to the current series, that future meetings between two proud nations will contain an undertone of the unseemly, with infinite scores to settle on and, regrettably, off the field, too.

It started with Mintgate in 2016, and reached a crescendo in the bowels of Kingsmead.

Hands have since been shaken, sighs were collectively puffed and resolutions were made to be better examples to a captive, if not visibly present audience. But it has not stopped there.

The confiscating of silly masks, designed to make an even sillier point, was for the good of the game. But there was a picture of the masks, with two prominent cricket execs beaming alongside. Not so good.

CSA still needs allies in cricket’s eternal game of thrones, which is why the suits can’t be seen to be involved in the mud-slinging that has gone on between the teams.

They have only just started mending bridges with India, so they don’t need frosty relations with another of cricket’s ‘Big Three’. The powers-that-be have since issued an apology for a picture that would have puzzled their visitors at best, but more likely horrified them. It’s just not cricket.

Players cross swords, and lines even, but the president’s suites was never meant for cheap shots. Enough of the personal barbs, already. Let’s go back to bat and ball doing the bulk of the talking. Both sides are good at that, actually. Very, very good, in fact.

Warner looked like a man consumed by fire on Friday, so keen he was to end his spat with a hundred in his first knock since the staircase.

Speaking of which, to see Rabada at his skipper’s side outside the dressing-rooms also said much. Somewhere in the past two years, the young tearaway has taken it upon himself to be the leader of the pace pack.

Those two batsmen caught in the conversational crossfire before tea were his mates  Markram from under-19 glory days, and Quinny de Kock from the Lions’ formative years. Not on his watch would they be isolated and preyed upon.

There is nothing wrong with that protective instinct. When he gets the considerable bit between his teeth, the rabid Rabada is a menace. That prime, 22-yard strip of real estate is his precious land, and no one is about to expropriate it from him without a scrap. But, in this age where even staircases have eyes, Rabada’s has to be more subtle with his on-field antics.

Sure, Steve Smith’s reaction to Rabada’s celebration bordered on simulation, but the speedster may have to find another way to celebrate the wickets he so greedily collects.

Footballers target defenders on yellow cards, and now we have cricketers seeking out those heading towards a demerit cul-de-sac. Make of that what you will.

If we think back, the sight of Dean Elgar muzzling Rabada after his rap battle with Ben Stokes last year was funny then, but missing matches is a habit that will not humour Rabada at all. It hurts him, and it hurts his team. More than that, it hurts the game he adds so, so much to.

Rather do an Imran Tahir and tear away towards the crowd. Heck, tear off your shirt and thump that bristling chest. They may have banned it from football, but there is nothing in the code of conduct about that just yet.

Off the field, Rabada is an intelligent, reflective figure, finding solace in hip-hop bops  and extended batting sessions in the net. On the battlefield, he becomes a different figure, spitting spicy lyrics akin to rapper Jay-Z, who is affectionately known as “Jigga”.

Sadly, the match referee may yet tell Rabada that for the rest of the series he has “99 problems, but a pitch ain’t one”

Sunday Tribune

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