Faf du Plessis, the South Africa captain, questioned the integrity of the International Cricket Council’s disciplinary approach after Kagiso Rabada, the pacer, was banned for two Tests while David Warner, the Australia vice-captain, wasn’t suspended despite his ugly row with Quinton de Kock, the South African wicketkeeper.
Rabada will miss the rest of the four-Test series against Australia – unless South Africa appeal successfully – after being slapped with a two-Test ban for accumulating enough demerit points to be suspended following incidents involving Warner and Steven Smith, the Australia captain.
“Our style of play is never wanting to swear at players and to trip them all the time,” said du Plessis in the post-match press conference. “If you look at the way KG [Rabada] plays the game, he’s a competitive fast bowler and he works bloody hard. He runs in and bowls quick for long periods of time, and when he gets big wickets, that’s celebration.
“Obviously these days, the attention has changed so much to what is allowed and what is not allowed and what is within the spirit of the game. I just think that has changed so much over the last year or two that you are getting a lot more incidents happening now than before. KG will probably have to be smart when he celebrates a wicket, but I don’t see what KG has done is wrong, I just see it as passion.”
Rabada, who bowled South Africa to victory with 11 wickets in the second Test, was found guilty of inappropriate and deliberate physical contact with Smith on the first day, having brushed the Australia captain’s shoulder in a sendoff. Rabada contested the charge, but was found guilty and slapped with a 50% match fee fine along with three demerit points.
He was also charged separately for a Level 1 offence for giving a sendoff to Warner in the second innings, and he accepted that charge. That brought him a further 15% match fee fine and one demerit point, making it a total of nine demerit points and a total fine of 65% of his match fee.
“I think we’re just going too far on the sensitive side, because every incident on the cameras is: ‘Did you see that? Did you see that? Did you see that?’ It’s Test cricket,” remarked du Plessis. “We as a team have got no issues with the way the Australian team play their brand of cricket. It’s good for the game of Test cricket.”
Du Plessis went on to add that the mini battles in the middle will be only good for the survival of Test cricket. “People talk about where is the future of Test cricket. This, for me, is an important part of Test cricket.. the battles that you face. That is KG running in for 15 overs trying to get someone out and eventually when he gets him out, he has to show that passion. Otherwise you could just put a bowling machine and a robot to bat.”
The South Africa captain also said that the ICC’s demerit points system was doing Test cricket no favours, and added that Rabada’s incident should have carried the same points as Warner’s offence when the Australian opener and de Kock were charged for being involved in a scrap.
“The charge against KG is a level 2 with three demerit points, and the charge against Davey is a level 2 with three demerit points,” he said. “For me, if you look at those incidents, one is brushing of the shirt, the other is a lot more aggressive. My question was: why are both these incidents labelled the same? For me, they are not. The contact (between Rabada and Smith) was very minimal, it was a shirt flick of two players and you would get one or two demerit points as a slap on the wrist because it wasn’t full body contact. But that’s where I’m sitting as a player, not as an official.
“For me, it’s just about looking at the context of the series, and it’s crucial that you have the best players playing,” he went on. “For us, it’s about proving that what KG did… they call it body contact, we would say it is a shirt being brushed or it was not deliberate. As the match referee mentioned, there are bigger things at play here, that’s why he didn’t ban Davey Warner and make it a level three offence because it’s a series between two big teams. I just asked the same question.”
For his part, Rabada said he would need to avoid getting into close proximity with opponents. He added that he contested the charge on the Smith incident because he believed he had not made deliberate contact with the Australian captain’s shoulder.
“There are a lot of grey areas [in the rules]. I won’t change the way I express myself but I will get far away from the batter,” he said. “If I knew I did it deliberately, I wouldn’t have contested it. Honestly, I didn’t feel contact in that moment. I was just so pumped up.”
Rabada said it was different from the case against him when he gave Ben Stokes a sendoff in a Test at Lord’s last year, which resulted in a single demerit point which added to a previous three points ruled him out of the next Test.
“With the Stokes incident, I didn’t contest it because I knew I did it,” he said. “I would have loved to be playing in the next game, especially coming off a performance like that. I felt really good in this Test match.
“If I do get banned, I will have to see it as a big learning curve and not repeat the same mistake because I’ve repeated the same mistake in the eyes of the umpires. I’m not happy about it.”