Lloyd Burnard

SA v Aus: Off-field circus outshining the cricket

2018-03-12 07:41
Lloyd Burnard

Cape Town - Sometimes in sport, tempers flare. 

Such instances manifest from the emotion that is an inevitable companion of competition, regardless of the level.

Whether it be a social game of pool at the local watering hole or a Wimbledon final, those involved want to win. It is the essence of sport and the reason we love it so much. 

When things do spill over, there is generally an understanding among the participants to quickly calm it all down; to bring the situation back under control. At the end of the day, there are rules at play and authorities in charge to prevent things from getting nasty. 

Certain sports facilitate that process better than others. 

Football, for example, is a free-for-all. Players cheat, verbally attack and intimidate referees and there are seldom repercussions. Such behaviour is common-place in that sport, and it depicts an overall lack of respect for the game, its authorities and professional sport as a whole. 

Cricket is supposed to be different. 

It is supposed to be a game in which the players share a mutual respect for something bigger, but the events of the last two weeks in South Africa suggest that the days of the 'gentleman's game' are long, long gone. 

While fired-up fast bowlers and vocal fielders have always given cricket a welcomed edge, things have spilled over. 

The David Warner v Quinton de Kock fiasco should have been a warning sign for all involved in the series. It was a regrettable story that should have forced the players and management from both sides to put the focus back onto the field. 

Instead, the opposite happened. 

We found ourselves picking sides and continuing the fight, not aware of the damage we may have been doing. 

As South Africans delighted in a comment that shamed a mother for an action that took place over a decade ago, cricket suffered. 

When the second Test began in Port Elizabeth on Friday, the fact that it was International Women's Day was lost in the cricket world. 

That didn't stop certain members of the PE crowd from wearing their printed Sonny Bill Williams masks, blissfully unaware of how such an action might impact on the only innocent people involved in this whole mess: Candice Warner and her two little girls. 

To make matters worse, two Cricket South Africa (CSA) officials were pictured, with wide smiles, standing alongside three spectators wearing their SBW masks. 

READ: CSA heads may roll over SBW masks

Regardless of who said what or when, this was not something that should have been turned into the circus it was. 

David Warner's actions were unacceptable, and so were Quinton de Kock's, but the Warner family should not have been ridiculed in that way.

By the end of day one of the second Test, Warner v De Kock was finally yesterday's news. 

Instead, the focus turned to Proteas speedster and day one hero, Kagiso Rabada. 

Clearly a hot-headed individual on the field, Rabada had gone over-the-top with his celebrations when he dismissed Australian captain Steve Smith. 

On the surface, it was soft. 

The players brushed shoulders. Smith milked the incident for all its worth, the way a footballer would when trying to cheat his way to a penalty in the box. 

Rabada, though, was hardly innocent. He changed his path to make sure that he walked as close to Smith as he possibly could, and he screamed in the ear of the world's top-ranked batsman. 

Rabada could now miss the last two Tests of the series due to this incident being the final straw in the eyes of the ICC - and he can have only himself to blame.

We want him to be aggressive, but Rabada needs to channel that aggression. Instead, he has let his country down massively. 

The South Africans reportedly then accused Warner, who had his left hand heavily strapped, of ball tampering. This came after Proteas captain Faf du Plessis had said that his side might look to exploit the fact that Warner was one violation away from a suspension of his own. 

CSA, though, have said that they never accused Warner of anything and that those reports were manufactured by the Australian press. More 'he said, she said' that has nothing to do with the cricket. 

The South African national captain had admitted that he may seek to rile Warner into "making a mistake" that cost the Aussie opener his place in the series. Is that, in itself, an action that is undertaken in the spirit of the game?

READ: Proteas to bait Warner into Test ban?

It's disappointing, because in the middle of all of these low blows there has been some phenomenal cricket on show. 

Mitchell Starc's deathly spell in Durban, Aiden Markram's majestic knock at the same venue, Rabada's devastating fast bowling in PE and AB de Villiers' masterclass this weekend have all been overshadowed by the immature nonsense that those who should know better have taken part in. 

The cricket, by itself, will always be enough. 

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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