Taking a stand on the merits of the Kagiso Rabada banning for the remainder of the four-Test series against Australia seems an easy one at the outset.
Everyone who has some interest in the series feels cheated now that the top-ranked Test bowler has been banned by the ICC. I am one of them.
Rabada will become one of the greatest fast bowlers to play for South Africa – of that I have no doubt. Having seen many players come and go over the years and been privileged to stand at mid-off or gully and watch some of them during my playing career, I can vouch for the fact that he is the real deal. The 22-year-old is such a talent and, even more importantly, such a critical Proteas player.
Somehow, I find myself torn between the rules and what I want to see. I love watching Rabada running in and sticking it up some Aussie batters’ nose. That’s the fire in most of us who play sport. South Africans are brought up that way and so are the Australians. It’s a way of life – whether it’s on the rugby field or in the pub playing darts. We want to win and we are always up for the challenge.
During the nineties, sledging was at its peak and I cannot even pretend that I was a saint. In fact, I would put myself right up there with the worst sledgers and I know those who played at the same time would agree. Thank goodness the authorities had a more lenient view back then. If they hadn’t, many players wouldn’t have played more than a handful of matches.
It was full-on when you played Test cricket. Looking back on it though, I really don’t feel too proud of the sledging. There have been moments when I have felt a little awkward when catching up with a past opponent. It now seems rather unnecessary. However, at the time and in the heat of the battle, it seemed a good thing to do.
But somehow deep down, I’m not sure that’s the right way. What happens if young children start behaving like that while partaking in school sport where there are no match referees and television replays? What if they all start abusing each other because that was what they watched last week at the Test match?
When I think along those lines, I know that ensuring we keep a lid on such behaviour on the field and in the eye of those still to come is a good thing. I then cannot defend KG.
When you look down the list of the real greats of various sporting codes, they kept themselves above the controversy of tactics other than their trade. Take Bjorn Borg and Roger Federer in tennis or Jack Nicklaus in golf as examples.
Within a cricket context, I was blessed to play with a real great in my book – Malcolm Marshall. The West Indian seemed to be above sledging and let the ball do the talking. Sachin Tendulkar was another and Shaun Pollock fitted in there too. It always appeared as though they were on a different mission. They just wanted to score runs and take wickets and didn’t concern themselves with getting involved in anything that could distract them from their goal.
Rabada’s banning is a tough one for him to take for sure. He will feel as though he has let his teammates and coaches down. However, he’s still a young man. He will come back from the ban and understand that, as a future great, he has a bigger role to play within the game around the world. And, in time, he’ll pass the lesson on to the next generation because that is the way it works in sport.
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