Proteas coach Gibson keen on the cricket after the Rabada sideshow

Kagiso Rabada. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
Kagiso Rabada. Picture Credit: Gallo Images

“Cricket? Anything? Anybody here for cricket?”

Ottis Gibson tried but there were no takers at a press conference at Newlands on Tuesday.

Instead you could have had any story you liked‚ as long as it was about Kagiso Rabada and his successful appeal of the ban that would have ruled him out of the last two tests of South Africa’s series against Australia.

After a six-hour hearing on Monday‚ judicial commissioner Michael Heron ruled on Tuesday that‚ “I am not ‘comfortably satisfied’ that Mr Rabada intended to make contact and I therefore find him not guilty of the charge under [code of conduct section] 2.2.7.”

The contact in question was the most infamous bumping of shoulders in recent world history‚ which occurred between Rabada and Australian captain Steve Smith at St George’s Park on March 9.

It led to Rabada being slapped with three demerit points‚ which pushed him over the suspension threshold of eight points.

Heron’s decision‚ which rescinded two of those points‚ reeled Rabada back into the frame for the third test at Newlands on Thursday.

“We believe that ‘KG’ [Rabada] never deliberately charged Steven Smith with his shoulder‚” South Africa team manager Mohammed Moosajee‚ who sat next to Gibson‚ read from a statement.

The South Africans are showing impressive sense and sensibility by not crowing the outcome of the appeal as a victory of sorts‚ not least because they still have a series to win and because Rabada remains just a point away from another ban. “We do understand that ‘KG’s quite a fiery character on the field‚” Moosajee said.

“But there are rules and regulations that govern conduct on the field. Like every player this applies to ‘KG’ and he is well aware of it. He’s the first to admit that he must take better responsibility and better handle his positive and aggressive celebration‚ and not get careless nor be disrespectful. At the same time we will always support our players in situations like these‚ where we believe the code of conduct has been unfairly enforced upon us.”

Faf du Plessis failed in his bid to have a conviction for ball-tampering overturned in December 2015‚ and Quinton de Kock unsuccessfully contested not the charge but the sanction for bringing the game into disrepute for his role in the verbal tirade David Warner unleashed on him at Kingsmead during the first test of the current series.

Tweaking a bowler’s faulty action is all in a day’s work for coaches‚ but Gibson has the unusual task of fixing a follow through that takes Rabada too close to freshly dismissed batsmen. He’s been made aware of his on-field celebration‚” Gibson said.

“I don’t want to say behaviour because he’s not a badly behaved kid. He’s just very excited and exuberant sometimes. And when you’re playing against the best team in the world‚ sometimes that comes out of you.

“In all the stuff that he did there was no aggressive intent other than celebrating a wicket. But we’ve made him aware of the batsman’s space and where his space needs to be. So he must get away from the batsman and continue to celebrate and continue to bowl the way he’s been bowling over the last two weeks‚ which has been outstanding.” Rabada’s 11/150 at St George’s Park made him the series’ leading wicket-taker and the No. 1-ranked test bowler‚ and was key to South Africa winning by six wickets to level the series at 1-1. Gibson‚ himself a former fast bowler‚ had warts and all empathy for Rabada: “After six hours in a court room [on Monday] all he wanted to do was practise.

“I had to almost force him to warm up because all he wanted to do was get stuck in and be with his teammates.”

Was Gibson concerned that the Aussies would try and goad Rabada into earning another demerit point at Newlands and with it another ban for the fourth test at the Wanderers on March 30?

“I don’t think so‚” Gibson said.

“They might do but he’s a smart kid and he’s‚ I’m sure‚ learnt his lesson from what happened and I don’t expect that he will make the same mistake.”

That said‚ Gibson himself took a clever dig at the Australians: “The No. 1 bowler in the world being allowed to play cricket is exciting for everybody concerned.

“Him being available lifts everybody. I saw somewhere the Aussies saying they want to play against the best teams and the best players‚ so I’m sure they’ll also be delighted that he’s playing.”

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