Johannesburg - Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada’s contested suspension for the remainder of the Test series against Australia has highlighted our refusal to box clever as a sporting nation.
Rabada has appealed the decision to suspend him for the last two matches in the four-game series against the Aussies for making deliberate contact with their captain Steve Smith.
His appeal hearing is set for Monday (March 19), with Michael Heron QC of New Zealand appointed as the judicial commissioner for the hearing
Since news broke that the visitors rope-a-doped what looks like the best fast bowler on view in this engrossing series into getting himself banned, South Africans have taken turns whining that the lawmakers at the International Cricket Council (ICC) are a***s and that the Aussies are disingenuous.
But little attention has been paid to how Rabada, whose match-winning figures of 11/150 in the second Test in Port Elizabeth served emphatic notice to Australia and the rest of the free world of his outrageous gifts, allowed himself to be caught out like that in the first place.
Having identified Rabada as the Proteas’ main bowling threat, Smith telegraphed - nay, broadcast - in the Aussie media his team’s intent to rile Rabada into getting himself banned by picking up the three demerit points that would see him miss half the series.
Yet here we are with the series delicately poised at one-all with two Tests remaining and Rabada exactly where the Aussies want him, which is with his feet up somewhere in Johannesburg and nowhere near Cape Town, where the next Test begins on Thursday.
That it was also Smith who dobbed on (Aussie slang for telling on) Rabada to the umpires after slight but (in my opinion) deliberate shoulder contact told a tale of how one player stuck to the plan and the other lost all sight of the bigger picture.
In a way, Rabada’s white line fever issues on the pitch (the guy’s calm as a coma off it) over the past couple of years are proof that nobody’s perfect.
Possessed with the athleticism of a ballerina, the statue of David’s physique (the girls say he’s easy on the eye, too), every skill in the fast bowling book, nigh-impregnable mental strength and a wonderful cricketing brain, Rabada’s only shortcoming is an incredible lack of street smarts.
With the busiest man in a fraught series, match referee Jeff Crowe, having also made clear his intentions to charge him for the Smith incident, Rabada was still out there taunting the unlikeable David Warner after dismissing him a day after being told he was on the carpet.
It doesn’t matter how gifted, talismanic or likeable Rabada is, that was petulant or daft - or both.
That said, there were valid points about the ICC’s laws ridiculously seeking to take the red-blooded aspect out of a sport in which the likes of Rabada put the ‘fast’ in fast bowling by hurling a hard object at hapless batsmen at 150km/h.
As a colleague eloquently argued on social media this week, it makes no sense that Rabada was still sitting on demerit points for sins no more serious than checking the Sri Lankans 'skeef' at the beginning of last year.
The thing there is that he did serve a suspension for accumulating enough demerit points to miss one Test against England, after which - much like soccer players do - he should have started on zero again.
But for all that, the ICC, who used to punish bowlers for not looking back at the umpire to appeal a wicket as obvious as a thick outside edge finding its way to gully, has always been a nanny state.
South Africans should be smart enough to understand that, in that situation, the state doesn’t change - the people who live in it tailor their behaviour to its soft ways.
As for the Aussies, I’m not sure why we’re so appalled by them.
From Warner crying wolf after his sledging of Quinton de Kock backfired to Smith milking the innocuous shoulder contact with Rabada, they were just being themselves in reminding us why they are the bastards we love to hate.
The catch is that they may well be the bastards who win the series because they played the long game better than we did.
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