Australia’s Tour of South Africa has taken another bewildering turn with an independent commissioner overturning the two-match suspension handed down to Fast Bowler Kagiso Rabada after the Second Test. In what could be best described as a convenient outcome for the ICC, it opens the door for the in-form quick to play the Third Test of the hotly contested series. While Rabada being permitted to play should be confounding, in fact, the only way the ICC could ever truly surprise world cricket fans is if they ever managed a semblance of consistency.
After six hours of arguments, Commissioner Michael Heron was not ‘comfortably satisfied’ that Rabada intended to make contact with Australian Captain Steve Smith and acquited him of the initial charge. Most reasonable people can understand Heron’s thinking up until this point of his findings, yet in his revised charge he seems to display decision making based on an intention of ensuring Rabada be eligible to play, rather than enforcing the code of conduct.
Even though the code has been designed with a view to ensuring recidivists are treated more harshly than others, the prescribed calculation of penalites may well have seen Rabada treated more lightly. With a guilty finding for anything other than the lowest possible charge seeing Rabada suspended for two games, it seems highly coincidental that this is exactly the adjudication that Heron decided upon after hearing the appeal. To put the unlikeliness of this finding into some perspective lets look at a couple of earlier breaches of the ICC’s Code of Conduct this series.
On the Fifth Day of the First Test, Nathan Lyon dropped a cricket ball on the ground near a sprawled AB de Villiers after having run him out and was adjudged to be guilty of the same level of offence as Rabada was on appeal. Earlier in the same Test, David Warner was found guilty of a bigger breach for having responded aggressively to a misogynistic comment about the mother of his children during the tea break on Day Four.
Warner and Lyon are without question guilty of offences that most cricket fans would like to see the back of, but the off-spinner was nowhere near as aggressive, nor did he or Warner make contact with an opposition player. Deliberately or not, Rabada’s unnecessary deviation towards Smith is the reason why there was a collision between the two players. Heron and the court of public opinion seemed so lost in whether Rabada’s contact with Smith was deliberate or not, they seemed to forget that opposition players are not just there to be screamed at and bumped into by fast bowlers showing them no respect.
“He bumped me a little bit harder than it actually looked on the footage”
Steve Smith 21.03.18
If there was further evidence needed as to what result was wanted from the findings it can be found in the fact that in the 360 minutes of evidence presented during the appeal, exactly zero of them came from the mouth of Steve Smith. Whether you believe what the Aussie skipper has to say on the matter, it is bewildering that his opinion was not at least sought by Commissioner Heron.
Ultimately it seems that Vaughan’s feelings more adequately reflect the ICC’s views rather than their oft-stated desire to rid the game of poor behaviour. It seems the game’s governing body, like the rest of the cricketing world, is desperate to see the fiery Rabada play, despite his ability to rack up demerit points almost as quickly as he takes top-order Australian wickets. While this remains the prevailing view don’t expect to see Rabada change his ways anytime soon and don’t be surprised if his inevitable suspensions are consigned to meaningless ODI’s well into the foreseeable future.