The four-match test series between South Africa and Australia is brewing up into a quite intriguing series. Two intensely competitive sides with a history against one another, both carrying excellent strength with the bowl and equal uncertainty with the bat with both sides heavily reliant on a few world class batsmen each. In short, just what test cricket was in massive need of – after a long run of series dominated by the home side and regularly played in front of sparse crowds and seemingly even sparser interest.
So, the loss of Kagiso Rabada who is now banned from the rest of the series is a massive loss to cricket as it is to the South African side who are deprived of his services for the remaining two matches’. There are few box office stars in the longer form of the game and it is a real shame that two marquee series have been diminished by the loss of Ben Stokes from the Ashe’s and Rabada for the latest test series.
The Stokes issue is totally unavoidable to cricket and something that I don’t want to get into the moral question of. The ban of Rabada though and the on-going and increasing antagonism between the two sides in the current series is something that cricket can do something about.
With the ever-increasing use of technology used in the game to determine decisions of if a batsman is out or not, there has been a fear for the need of umpires, with machinery making more decisions over the years and taking away from the human element of the game. An area of the game where a human element is certainly required is more influence and policing of players on the field.
The ban of Rabada seems rather unfortunate as its been a series where verbal’s and aggression have been flying from the first delivery of the opening test. There is the feeling that its been 6 of one and half a dozen of the other in the antagonism stakes. The differing degrees of punishment are dealt with after the match and are not entirely clear to the players and viewing public as to how they are determined.
More influence for the umpires and clarity to who is overstepping the mark would make things clearer to both players and viewers. Its difficult to know in what format this would take place. The way that umpires have legislation for bowlers running on the wicket and damaging the pitch is an example of clarity though and could be something that could be looked at for the policing of players behaviour on the field.
Bowlers are not permitted to run down the centre of the pitch after delivery, since the spikes on their boots would scuff up the wicket and assist spin bowling later in the game with the damage to the pitch. Umpires decide this on their discretion and issue a first warning to bowler and captain. This is clear to all players on either side, the crowd who pay to watch at the ground and the TV viewers. The next step would a final warning if it continued followed by the bowler no longer to bowl in the rest of the innings. The steps are known to all players and public and are clear to all.
Cricket wants and needs tough, hard cricket with neither side giving an inch. It has to stay in the boundaries of some sort of order though with players having the umpire decide when enough has been said and a line not gone over. It also can’t really afford to lose players of the likes of Rabada who is one of the leading lights and in the game due to a lack of clarity and consistency in disciplinary decision making.
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