Rabada no-show raises fears he will be next victim of series 'virus'

09 March 2018 - 19:58 By Telford Vice‚ St George’S Park
Kagiso Rabada celebrates during day 1 of the 2nd Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Australia at St George's Park on March 09, 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Kagiso Rabada celebrates during day 1 of the 2nd Sunfoil Test match between South Africa and Australia at St George's Park on March 09, 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Kagiso Rabada delivered one of the most fiery performances of his already alight career at St George’s Park on Friday.

Rabada took 5/96 on the first day of the second test between South Africa and Australia‚ removing Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh in consecutive overs before ripping through most of the tail.

Perhaps Rabada had taken seriously what Ottis Gibson spoke of on Wednesday: “I am happy with aggression being shown on the field if it’s coming from the bowler.

“If a fast bowler is bowling bouncers and trying to intimidate a batsmen‚ that’s aggression.”

Gibson was reacting to Australia’s justification — their culture of aggression — for the sustained fury David Warner flung at Quinton de Kock during the first test at Kingsmead‚ and that cost Warner 75% of his match fee along with three demerit points.

Rabada had the intelligence not to bowl bouncers on the seaming‚ swinging St George’s Park pitch.

Instead‚ he was at his most dangerous and successful‚ and of course aggressive‚ when he pitched the ball up.

So he was the logical choice to bring to the press conference after stumps.

Except that Vernon Philander turned up.

After dismissing Smith‚ Rabada’s shoulder collided with the Australian captain’s as he made his way off the ground.

There wasn’t a lot of contact involved‚ but the key point in terms of the code of conduct is that if contact between the players is avoidable is should be avoided.

In this case the contact was avoidable and wasn’t avoided.

Crucially‚ Rabada has five demerit points. If he is charged it would likely be on level two‚ which could attract three or four more points.

Players who accumulate eight points are banned for two matches‚ which would put Rabada out of the last two tests.

Even as South Africa’s team management made the argument for Rabada’s absence‚ he was fielding questions on television — where former players acting as interviewers are far less critical than journalists‚ who were later sent a link by team management that they could use to access Rabada’s television interview.

Predictably the flaccid conversation on screen did not include any mention of the Smith incident.

Team management told protesting reporters that Rabada was shielded from the press because he didn’t want to prejudice his case if he was summoned by match referee Jeff Crowe.

A better approach would have been to instruct Rabada not to answer questions on the issue.

Philander took his seat behind the microphones amid the reporters voicing their unhappiness.

But only for a few seconds before rising and pretending to head off in a mock reaction to being unwanted.

He returned to shoulder the unfair burden of trying to explain Rabada’s actions.

“It’s sport‚” Philander said. “It’s a lot of men playing out there and you’re allowed to celebrate sometimes.

“Sometimes there’s a fine line about celebrating too hard.

“It’s a bunch of men playing this game. It would be a totally different ballgame if it was a bunch of schoolboys. We tend to take things personally.

“The way ‘KG’ was running in this afternoon was pretty amazing to watch — the way he came across he wanted the ball‚ he wanted to bowl overs. He was phenomenal.

“Hats off to him about the way he went about his business.”

What if Rabada was removed from the equation for the tests at Newlands and the Wanderers?

“He would leave a massive hole‚” Philander said. “He’s a big part of this bowling lineup. Let’s hope that’s not the case.”

Friday’s play was conducted in a markedly cooler atmosphere compared to the heat of the exchanges between the players at Kingsmead.

Crowe has had a busy series‚ disciplining Warner and De Kock — who was also done‚ but a level lower than Warner‚ for his role in the Kingsmead kerfuffle — and Nathan Lyon‚ who was punished for dropping the ball on a prone AB de Villiers‚ also in Durban.

The teams’ captains and managers met with Crowe to clear the air on Thursday‚ but Philander credited some of the relative civility to extra vigilance by the umpires‚ Chris Gaffney and Kumar Dharmasena.

“After the last game it was always going to be sensitive‚” he said. “The umpires were always going to try and be in the game and try and find out what’s going on.

“But they’re within their rights to try and kill some bug or virus from spreading too quickly.”

Not fast enough. Rabada might be its next victim.

Team management said a decision would be made on Saturday morning.