Proteas quick Kagiso Rabada admits he’s let his team down for his brush with Steve Smith that has seen him suspended for the final two Tests against Australia.
But the fiery quick says he will not change the way he expresses himself on the field despite being fined 65 per cent of his match fee and handed four demerit points for two separate incidents in the second Test in Port Elizabeth.
Rabada was named player of the match in South Africa’s six-wicket win at St George’s Park for his phenomenal match haul of 11-150, but unfortunately most of the focus on the boom speedster was about his actions without a ball in his hands.
“I’ve let myself and the team down,” Rabada told reporters after play on Monday.
“But I have to move forward and I have to see, if I do get banned, then I have to see it as a big learning curve and not repeat the same mistake, because I’ve ‘repeated’ the same mistake in the eyes of the umpires.
“I’m not happy about it.”
Rabada could still play in Cape Town if he decides to appeal match referee Jeff Crowe’s decision, but would need to make a case to a Judicial Commissioner before the third Test to be allowed to play.
The 22-year-old was fined 50 per cent of his match fee and handed the three demerit points for nudging Smith after dismissing the Australia captain on Friday to take him to eight demerit points, enough to incur a two-Test suspension.
Rabada is the second player in the series to be hit with a Level 2 offence after David Warner was fined 75 per cent of his match fee and given three demerit points for his emotional outburst at Proteas gloveman Quinton de Kock in the stairwell outside the players’ dressing rooms at Kingsmead.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said after play he disagreed with Crowe that Rabada’s incident deserved the same punishment as that of the Australia opener.
“For me if you look at both those incidents, one is brushing a shirt the other one is a lot more aggressive,” du Plessis said.
“That was my question: Why are both of these incidents labelled as exactly the same? Because for me they’re not.
“I would assume if it was a normal situation you could say that the contact was very, very minimal.
“It was a short flick of two players and you’d get one or two demerit points as a slap on the wrist because it wasn’t full-body contact.
“But that’s where I’m sitting as a player and not an official."
Rabada contested the initial charge reported by the umpires, adamant that he did not intentionally come in to contact with Smith.
“The reason why we went for the hearing to appeal is because we believe that, like Faf said, there’s not a lot of consistency,” Rabada said.
“If I knew that I did it deliberately, then I wouldn’t have gone in to contest.
“Honestly, I didn’t even feel the contact in that moment, because I was just so pumped up.
“I didn’t feel any contact at all.
“If I did it deliberately then I wouldn’t have contested.
“It’s the same as in Lord’s – the (Ben) Stokes incident (where he was charged for using offensive language in a send-off) – I didn’t go and try to appeal that one because I knew that I did it.
“It’s going to have to stop, I can’t keep doing this because I’m letting the team down and I’m also letting myself down.”
While he still may appeal the sanction involving Smith, Rabada accepted a Level 1 charge – a further 15 per cent fine of his match fee and one additional demerit point – for his send-off of Warner on day three.
Having clean bowled the Australia vice-captain, the youngster screamed in the face of the dismissed batsman and used “language, actions or gestures which could provoke an aggressive reaction from a batsman”, according to the ICC.
It’s the third time a fiery send-off has put Rabada in hot water, but the express paceman says he won’t curb his wicket celebrations.
“I won’t change the way I express myself, but I’ll just get far away from the batter,” he said.
When asked if watching Rabada celebrate in such a volatile way makes him nervous, du Plessis says he sees only passion flowing out of his tearaway quick.
“If you look at the way KG plays the game, he’s a competitive fast bowler and he works bloody hard,” du Plessis said.
“He runs in and he bowls quick for long periods of time, and when he gets big wickets that’s celebration, that’s energy, that’s passion.
“For me it’s pure passion when he gets a wicket.
“These days the attention is on what’s allowed and what is not allowed and what is in the spirit of the game and what isn’t.
“I just think that has changed so much over the past year or two, that you’re getting a lot more incidents happening now than before.
“Two, three years ago that was the norm and then KG there would have been nothing from him.
“When you know KG’s character, and KG plays with all these guys in the IPL, they know that he’s not a guy who is like that.
“It’s just pure working hard for a wicket, celebrate and it’s like Dale Steyn.
“Fortunately for Dale he just does just doesn’t follow through, he just does it there (away from the batsman) where he blows his veins open.
“KG has three or four steps and does exactly the same.
“I don’t get nervous. Where the game’s going, with every single thing being monitored over TV and what you do and say, KG will have to get a little bit smarter with when he celebrates a wicket, but for me I don’t see what he does as wrong.
“I just see it as passion.”
The interpretation of send-offs is one big area du Plessis says the ICC need to be more consistent or risk taking the character and emotion out of cricket.
“That’s the biggest concern that we face, all teams now, is the fact that everyone just asks for consistency,” he said.
“I think we’re just going too (far) on the sensitive side with everything at the moment.
“Because every single incident with the cameras is like ‘Did you see that? Did you see that?’.
“It’s Test cricket.
“We as a team have got no issues the way the Australian team play their brand of cricket. It’s good for the game of Test cricket.
“People talk about where Test cricket is going, where is the future of Test cricket?”
“An important part of Test cricket is the battles that you face, the small battles that is KG running in for 15 overs trying to get someone out and eventually when he gets someone out he has to show that passion, otherwise you can just put out a bowling machine and robot to bat.”
Qantas tour of South Africa
South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights
First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard
Second Test South Africa won by six wickets. Scorecard
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26. Live coverage
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage