Test cricket will soon lose its soul if the International Cricket Council continues to take the emotion out of the game we love.
Kagiso Rabada produced one of the best fast-bowling performances of all time at St George’s Park against Australia in 2018. It was a performance filled with heart and courage, as he took 11 wickets on a rather placid pitch not dissimilar to the one being used in the Test between the Proteas and England.
It was a tight Test match in a heated series and South Africa needed their premier fast bowler to produce the goods. He ended up taking 11 wickets in the match, with 5-96 in the first innings and 6-54 in the second to help the Proteas level the series after losing the opening Test in Durban.
In that match, Rabada was charged by the match referee for brushing Australian captain Steve Smith’s shoulder after celebrating the star batsman’s wicket. He was then banned for the next Test at Newlands after accumulating a couple of demerit points. However, after the Proteas appealed, Rabada was allowed to play in the Mother City after receiving a lesser punishment.
But there was a big woo-hah made about the incident, and Rabada vowed to control his emotions a lot more. And over the last couple of years we have seen just that, as the talented quick’s celebrations has been a lot more measured. However, there have also been a lot less wickets celebrated.
That six-wicket haul against Australia in March 2018 was also Rabada’s last five-for, which is astonishing for a man of his ability. At the end of that Test against against Australia, Rabada had nine five-wicket hauls to his name, as well as four 10-wicket hauls.
But in 15 Tests after that he hasn’t managed five wickets in an innings again. To be fair, he has bowled well without a lot of success in the subsequent matches, but he just hasn’t been the same bowler following that Test in PE.
Almost two years later that old Rabada emotion came out again at this very venue. This time he got the wicket of England captain Joe Root, which has led to his latest ban.
The celebration seemed rather harmless, albeit with veins popping out of his neck. It was a rare show of emotion after toiling hard on a slow, unhelpful wicket. His hard toil had finally paid off. It was good television, too.
But the ICC felt that he crossed the line again, just as they did in 2018. And now the fast bowler is banned for the fourth and final Test in this series at the Wanderers.
It seems like that first ban after the Smith incident really got to the kid, and this one could be a similar issue, even though the punishment for the crime is rather ludicrous. Punishing someone for essentially celebrating success is baffling.
If we take emotions out of the game, we might as well let robots play this sport that we all dearly love. You take away the theatre and the unscripted ebbs and flows that come with the Test game, which is already under threat.
Emotion is a key ingredient of Rabada’s makeup, because it let’s him tap into that side of him that takes no prisoners. Of course, there is a fine line, which he may have overstepped a few times, but in this situation it’s ridiculous to say that he ‘provoked’ Root in any way.
This senseless punishment could essentially affect Rabada’s career even further, and also lead to the game becoming stiff and boring to watch. We could soon be without characters. Think back to Allan Donald versus Mike Atherton and Tony Greig and the whole of the West Indies team. It was riveting to watch, with episodes in the game that we will remember forever.
The ICC is responsible for the soul of cricket, especially the longest form of the game. If it continues to take the emotion out of it, we will soon have a bunch of zombies playing the game.
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