Kagiso Rabada the latest addition to list of players punished heavily for a petty offence

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Kagiso Rabada won't take part in the second Test against England.

South African pacer Kagiso Rabada won’t play in the second Test at Trent Bridge. The simple reason for it is the pacer hurled an expletive at England’s Ben Stokes after dismissing him in the first innings at Lord’s. However, it was a culmination of demerit points that led to the situation.

Rabada had been given three demerit points in February for an altercation with Sri Lanka batsman Niroshan Dickwella during an ODI in Cape Town when the players made deliberate ‘contact’ with each other. The pacer was fined 15 per cent of match fee and given one demerit point for the Stokes incident and the resulting total of four points got automatically converted to suspension for the next Test.

The main issue here is whether Rabada was ‘expressing’ himself or directing an insult at Stokes. The incident was fairly tame compared to numerous incidents in cricket where players have been involved in a sustained and ugly altercations. Rabada simply blurted out the expletive while celebrating a dismissal. As former South Africa skipper Graeme Smith pointed out, the only reason we are all talking about it is because the stump microphone picked it up.

“No-one wrote about it, no-one spoke about it. It was only because it was on the stump mic that it’s become a thing,” Smith said.

Former England captains Mike Atherton, Ian Botham and David Gower said that not only was the Stokes incident blown out of proportion, even the Dickwella ‘contact’ didn’t merit demerit points as it was barely a nudge.

It should not come as a surprise to cricket fans that this wasn’t the first such instance of a player or players being taken to task despite the absence of a grave offence.

The most famous case was the second Test between South Africa and India in Port Elizabeth in 2001. The one in which Sachin Tendulkar was handed a suspended one-year ban for “interference with the match ball, thus changing its condition”.

While the focus fell on Tendulkar and the unthinkable (at least for Indian fans) allegation of cheating, there was the equally staggering ban on five other Indian players.

Virender Sehwag was banned for a Test for “showing dissent at the umpire’s decision and attempting to intimidate the umpire by charging” and “crude or abusive language”. Opening batsman Shiv Sunder Das, wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh were handed suspended one-Test bans for excessive appealing. And for good measure, captain Sourav Ganguly was given a suspended one Test, two ODI ban for failing to control the behaviour of his players.

Using abusive language and attempting to alter the condition of the ball are serious charges. But excessive appealing? In that same Test, the South Africans too were vociferous in their appeals but no Protea player was cited by the on-field umpires.

If that incident fell in the realm of bizarre, the one involving Dickwella in February was as incredible. No, not the one with Rabada. This time, the Sri Lankan was punished for his actions during a T20 against Australia a few weeks after ‘contact-gate’. Dickwella was given out caught behind, despite the ball hitting his shoulder. His displeasure at being given out attracted two demerit points, which when combined with the one he earned for the Rabada incident, resulted in a suspension.

So what was Dickwella’s fault?

“The incident happened when Dickwella, after being given out caught behind, paused to view the replay, kicked the turf and looked at his shoulder for a prolonged period of time,” said the ICC in a statement.

Excessive appealing and looking at one’s shoulder for a prolonged period of time have resulted in bans. So Rabada’s suspension is on expected lines.

The list of players who have done a lot worse and gotten away with it is too big to even start assessing. For now, let’s just look at the latest addition to the ‘bizarre’ list and shake our heads.

PANDYA’S LUCK

All-rounder Hardik Pandya was named in India’s Test squad that will tour Sri Lanka at the end of the month. The three-Test series is the prefect platform for Pandya to become what Indian fans had been waiting for ages – a Test quality bowling all-rounder.

The 23-year-old’s bowling has improved in every aspect, be it pace, control or swing. And his batting is as riveting as ever. Remember the 43-ball 76 in the Champions Trophy final against Pakistan?

But just as the BCCI sent the press release announcing the squad for the Sri Lanka tour, news came in from Jamaica that Pandya had hobbled off the ground during the warm-ups ahead of the one-off T20 on Sunday.

The nature of Pandya’s fitness woes wasn’t revealed but the management must be concerned. The all-rounder returned to the team earlier in the year after being sidelined for a long time following a hairline fracture on his shoulder. Given his workload as a bowling all-rounder, Pandya’s fitness will continue to keep the management on the edge of the chair.

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Quick round-up of England's emphatic win in the Lord's Test against South Africa

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Moeen Ali scored a fifty and picked up 10 wickets at Lord's.

Moeen Ali’s career-best bowling helped Joe Root start his tenure as England Test captain with a resounding 211-run victory inside four days as 19 wickets fell in three remarkable sessions at Lord’s on Sunday.

Jonny Bairstow also lifted England to a second-innings 233 with a defiant half-century, after a collapse of seven wickets for 43 runs, and then kickstarted South Africa’s descent to 119 all out with an athletic leg-side catch as their attempt to pull off the ground’s second-highest run chase veered instead on to the fast track to defeat.

Spin then predictably did much of the damage on a decidedly helpful surface, as Moeen (six for 53) finished with a 10-wicket match haul and Liam Dawson did his bit too with two scalps. Here are the talking points and quick round-up of the day’s play.

Tweet of the day

Pitch perfect?

The surface has been out of keeping with many at Lord’s of late. Pace and carry on day one soon fizzled out, to be replaced with early spin – mostly from the rough, but increasingly wicket-to-wicket – and variable bounce. Some may yearn for the featherbeds of previous summers, but conditions produced a fair balance between bat and ball and surely a good Test for all.

Bairstow at his best

Bairstow has hit a half-century in all but one of his last five Tests – maintaining his standards even through England’s losing run in India last winter, falling only a single short in his one match without a half-century. He was back with another hugely valuable 51 at Lord’s, albeit after an early stroke of fortune, and then proved his worth behind the stumps too with an outstanding leg-side catch.

Stat of the day

Four for 10 … three for two – You will not win many matches with two nifty collapses like the above, both of which featured in England’s hectic morning. They were still able to set South Africa 331, only 10 fewer than the ground-record run chase, though.

What next?

Trent Bridge. South Africa have an extra day to ready themselves to try to stay in with a chance of winning the four-match series, but must do so without Kagiso Rabada – banned for the second Test for swearing after dismissing Ben Stokes in the first innings.

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Lord's pitch surprises England bowler James Anderson

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England's James Anderson (C) celebrates with teammates

James Anderson is surprised at how the Lord’s pitch is shaping up in the first Test against South Africa but was pleased with England’s position at the close on day three.

Alastair Cook established a commanding position for England after they bowled South Africa out for 361.

Cook (59no) and Keaton Jennings both had a little good fortune in an opening stand of 80 on the way to 119 for one at stumps, giving England an overall lead of 216 despite the earlier resistance of Quinton de Kock (51) and Vernon Philander (52).

When asked how happy he was with England’s status in the match, fast bowler Anderson said: “Really pleased. As the last couple of days have shown, the pitch is wearing quite quickly.

“A few balls are keeping low and good amounts of spin as well so I think we’re really pleased to be in the position we are but we know we’ve still got a lot of hard work in the next two days to get in an even better position.”

He added: “Considering how green it was I thought it might seam around on the first morning and it did a little bit but I wouldn’t have expected it to do this and be as dry as it is and show as much turn as it has.”

The Lancashire bowler also praised new England Test captain Joe Root.

“He’s doing well. I thought he was brilliant on the field,” Anderson said. “He kept cool, kept calm, even when they built partnerships.

“I thought he rotated the bowlers really well and in particular yesterday when it was a really hot day he could have let bowlers bowl really long spells but he chopped and changed and got the best out of the bowling attack. We were really happy to keep them below 400.

“He’s trying to put his own stamp on it. He asked a bit when he needed to but generally he’s his own man.”

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