Kagiso Rabada verdict shows the Proteas paceman can swing just about anything

Will Knight Columnist

By Will Knight, Will Knight is a Roar Expert

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185 Have your say

    Kagiso Rabada was just about unplayable in Port Elizabeth, but he was mesmerising in Cape Town.

    How did the South African speedster – or more accurately his legal team – manage to win what seemed like the unwinnable appeal to clear him to play in the third Test against Australia, starting on Thursday?

    Remember, Rabada said last week he took “responsibility for what happened” and needs to stop “letting the team down”.

    But Rabada is so hot right now he can swing just about anything.

    He deliberately changed his line to get in Steve Smith’s face as he celebrated the Australian captain’s dismissal in Port Elizabeth. That can’t be disputed, no matter which camera angle you wish to entertain.

    He got his angry eyes on and veered towards the Aussie skipper to give him an extra few decibels of send-off on the way past.

    The success of the appeal, which was led by high-profile barrister Dali Mpofu, relied on proving that Rabada didn’t make “inappropriate and deliberate physical contact” with Smith.

    Just about everyone – South African, Australian or otherwise – would agree that it was inappropriate.

    So was it deliberate? Well, change the direction in which you’re running and it’s logical that there’s a decent, if not overwhelming, level of intent.

    He wasn’t getting out of the road of a swooping bird, a plummeting Spider-Cam or an out-of-control drinks cart. He wanted to give it to Smith and his spray was as vigorous as one of his 145km/hr reverse-swinging thunderbolts.

    South Africa’s bowler Kagiso Rabada

    AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

    I don’t mind the quicks letting off some steam when they make a big breakthrough.

    Fast bowling can be a tough art. The pace spearheads invariably rely not just on their skill but also on bravado and swagger. They set the tone for combat. They tear in, often in draining heat and often on docile decks, trying to get everything out of their bodies to lead the way for their countries.

    The heart rate is up, the adrenaline is pumping. They’re like heavyweight boxers, not counting on subtlety and finesse, but power and ferocity.

    So it’s understandable that a quick like Rababa gets revved up after getting the world’s No.1 batsman out at a crucial stage of the second Test.

    But if you’re going to be that aggressor that lives on the edge of cricket’s laws and let it all out when you bag that big wicket – and it goes wrong – you’ve got to face the consequences.

    Rabada let off steam, he intentionally changed direction towards Smith and he made contact. Of course, it wasn’t a hit that would have the Stormers ready to offer him a Super Rugby contract.

    “The key issue is whether Mr Rabada made ‘inappropriate and deliberate physical contact’ with Mr Smith. I am not ‘comfortably satisfied’ that Mr Rabada intended to make contact,” ICC’s code of conduct appeal commissioner Michael Heron said in his statement.

    “I consider the conduct was inappropriate, lacked respect for his fellow player and involved non-deliberate and minor contact. The actions contravened the principle that a dismissed batsman should be left alone.”

    Not “comfortably satisfied”? Amazing. Given all the directions that Rabada could’ve turned towards to celebrate and he chose the path closest to Smith. And then with a nice bit of late swing he caught the edge of Smith.

    Use Hot-Spot. Use Snicko. Use Rabada Follow-Through Tracking technology if you want. I’d stick with the original decision.

    Will Knight
    Will Knight

    An AAP writer for more than a decade, Will Knight does his best to make sense of all things cricket, rugby union and rugby league, all while trying to have a laugh along the way. You can find him on Twitter @WKnightrider.

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    The Crowd Says (185)

    • March 21st 2018 @ 8:30am
      Connolly said | March 21st 2018 @ 8:30am | ! Report

      You don’t seem to understand the distinction between ‘deliberate” changing of direction and deliberately making contact. This was a sensible decision by an eminent QC. Obviously your finely honed legal mind is superior. Anyway a good result and poor Dave Warner has to now face him.

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2018 @ 8:55am
        spruce moose said | March 21st 2018 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        Good comment.

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2018 @ 9:44am
        JamesH said | March 21st 2018 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        …And you don’t seem to understand that ‘deliberate’ can only be determined on the balance of probabilities (unless we learn how to actually read minds), which involves looking at all the circumstances surrounding the incident. One of those circumstances was a clear, conscious change of direction by Rabada.

        That’s relevant – though by no means conclusive – to determining the likelihood that the contact was deliberate. There are plenty of other relevant circumstances too, such as the facts that Rabada’s aggression was squarely focused on Smith and Rabada didn’t visibly react at all to the contact. These suggest to me that he anticipated the contact and I think he is very lucky that the Commissioner wasn’t convinced.

        I acknowledge that the last sentence is just my opinion.

        • March 21st 2018 @ 9:58am
          Connolly said | March 21st 2018 @ 9:58am | ! Report

          The standard is not on the probabilities. What is in the rule is a third standard of proof, namely ‘comfortable satisfaction’, which is defined as lying in between the criminal ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ and the civil‘ balance of probabilities’. So the standard that had to be reached by the prosecution is higher than that of balance of probabilities. But not as high as beyond reasonable doubt. On that standard there is no way that Rababa could be held to have deliberately intended to cause contact.

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2018 @ 10:06am
            JamesH said | March 21st 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

            Fine, bad choice of words on my part. The point is that an objective determination of ‘deliberate’ can never be absolute, and relies on an assessment of the surrounding circumstances. ‘Deliberately changing direction’ is a very relevant circumstance.

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2018 @ 11:53pm
            Chris Kettlewell said | March 21st 2018 @ 11:53pm | ! Report

            But I think the point is, that it does set a precedent, that “comfortable satisfaction” of intent is probably always going to be a difficult thing to ascertain, and players just need to make sure they look away from the opposition player just before giving them a shoulder bump and will be able to argue they didn’t have intent and now have this precedent to point to in their arguments. So it makes future sanctions much more likely to be overturned on appeal.

        • Roar Rookie

          March 21st 2018 @ 10:01am
          Matthew Pearce said | March 21st 2018 @ 10:01am | ! Report

          I think you’ve summed it up pretty well there. Just our opinions though, which obviously aren’t the same as the commissioner’s.

          I found it interesting that Stokes and Johnson in 2013/14 popped up at the last minute as a supposed show of bias/whatever from Crowe/ICC. For mine, that shows what actually would happen if the contact was entirely accidental. They both react, they’re both mad, and they’re both blaming the other.

          Just my take on both the incidences, though.

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2018 @ 10:11am
            JamesH said | March 21st 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

            Yeah, I can’t really see a parallel with the Stokes-Johnson incident either. Johnson was stationary at the end of his follow through and Stokes was just running to get to the other end.

            The issue there was that both players did their nana afterwards. Had they just ignored each other no one would care. It was only ‘worse’ (as some are claiming) than the Rabada incident in the sense that the contact was firmer. The occurrence of the contact itself was far more excusable.

            • Roar Rookie

              March 21st 2018 @ 10:19am
              Matthew Pearce said | March 21st 2018 @ 10:19am | ! Report

              Other issues (personally, ruling aside) is that Johnson was aware he was in Stoke’s space and still chose to hold his ground, and Stokes didn’t make an effort sooner to get out of his way. But like I said, this is a better example of accidental contact than this incident.

              Was an interesting point that Rabada didn’t react. I didn’t actually pay it that much mind myself, but now that you’ve brought it up, that’s pretty contrary to any claim it was accidental. You’d react if you weren’t expecting it.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2018 @ 10:31am
                spruce moose said | March 21st 2018 @ 10:31am | ! Report

                Question – do you think there would have been anything of this if Steve Smith didn’t immediately indicate he was touched?

                Not saying at all that Smith was wrong to do so, but just questioning whether that was a contributing factor.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2018 @ 10:49am
                JamesH said | March 21st 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

                Fair question, Spruce. I don’t know that the umpire would have picked up on it straight away, but if the match referee had still seen the incident then he would have been forced to make a judgement on it.

              • Roar Rookie

                March 21st 2018 @ 10:50am
                Matthew Pearce said | March 21st 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

                Perhaps. Hard to say. It may well have been ignored (Rabada’s send-off to Maddinson in Adelaide comes to mind). Any other player without Rabada’s track record may have been given the benefit of the doubt as well – maybe.

                That said, it may well have played out exactly the same. My perspective on the whole Mint-gate saga was that it wouldn’t have really made a difference if we weren’t wiped in Hobart, but the Hobart result probably contributed to any suspicion that popped up.

                Personally, I’d like to think they’d make the same ruling regardless of any player reaction or lack of. I don’t think Smith’s reaction was big enough to influence it on his own.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2018 @ 11:55pm
                Chris Kettlewell said | March 21st 2018 @ 11:55pm | ! Report

                Hey, Warner got a 3-pointer from someone leaking CCTV footage a day or two later. The shoulder bump was pretty clear, I don’t think it took Steve Smith to bring it up for it to be highlighted!

      • March 21st 2018 @ 4:17pm
        Christo the Daddyo said | March 21st 2018 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

        You know “eminent QCs’ look for (and find) technical loopholes to get their clients off don’t you?

    • March 21st 2018 @ 8:33am
      Bretto said | March 21st 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      Rabada should not have got off. And a few of the Aussies should also be sanctioned for their boorish behaviour.
      It’s time this childish name calling ended. To suggest you can’t play cricket hard without resorting to acting like complete d1ckheads is ridiculous.
      Still, beating the Safas without their best bowler would have been a bit of an empty victory, one which they would have no doubt highlighted quite clearly.
      Bring on the cricket.

      • March 22nd 2018 @ 9:53am
        Crackerjack said | March 22nd 2018 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        It’s always interested me how you can play a non contact sport “hard!”

    • March 21st 2018 @ 8:46am
      John Erichsen said | March 21st 2018 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      The success of this appeal is only surprising to those who presumed guilt because it was Rabada. Incorrect claims of Rabada changing direction to get at Smith have been blindly accepted as fact. The bowlers line was always arguably towards his slips fielders and because of that, the deliberate contact charge was always flawed.
      Both sides have approached this series with a far stronger focus on gamesmanship than sportsmanship which has been a terribke shame. The mindless bias of many fans only adds to that shame.
      Hopefully, the cricket will be all that we are talking about for the rest of the series, but I am not holding my breath.

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2018 @ 8:56am
        spruce moose said | March 21st 2018 @ 8:56am | ! Report

        Incorrect claims of Rabada changing direction to get at Smith have been blindly accepted as fact. The bowlers line was always arguably towards his slips fielders and because of that, the deliberate contact charge was always flawed.

        Exactly. I’m simply astonished by how many people have chosen to entirely disregard that possibility, and instead deliver their own fact.

        • March 21st 2018 @ 9:51am
          Perry Bridge said | March 21st 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          I’m satisfied with the outcome. Have been pretty consistent arguing in favour of it NOT being ‘deliberate’.

          Roll on the third test. Should be great.

          Smith and Warner have a real challenge ahead of them – no pop gun attack not suited to the conditions.

          btw – how many water bottles are being flown in?

      • Roar Guru

        March 21st 2018 @ 9:54am
        JamesH said | March 21st 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        “Incorrect claims of Rabada changing direction to get at Smith” is just as absolute a statement as the ones you’re criticising. You can’t know for sure that those claims are incorrect, and the publicly available evidence suggests otherwise.

        The footage clearly shows that Rabada changes direction (as well as starting from a standstill after the appeal), and that his attention was focused on Smith at the time. Questioning that is just being wilfully blind. The case turned on whether or not the actual contact itself was deliberate, rather than whether or not Rabada was intentionally moving towards Smith.

        As for it being Rabada, the only way that is relevant (in my mind, at least) is his history of on-field aggression. If Starc had done the same thing I’d still think he was lucky to get off that lightly, and he doesn’t have Rabada’s poor recent disciplinary record.

        • March 21st 2018 @ 10:52am
          Perry Bridge said | March 21st 2018 @ 10:52am | ! Report

          “and that his attention was focused on Smith at the time”

          I disagree.

          “whether or not Rabada was intentionally moving towards Smith”

          I look at the footage and see Rabada NOT moving towards Smith – but moving towards his team mate running in from gully who has called to him and he is the first team mate to get to Rabada and give a high 5 (or 10).

          It’s not about being wilfully blind at all – or – perhaps you yourself are being so??

          I assert that Rabada was entirely caught up in the moment – was absolutely pumped with the wicket (thankfully he doesn’t do any Brett Lee style rubbish of a ‘chainsaw’) and he was engrossed in sharing the moment with his team mates.

          The problem being that Steve Smith – instead of heading for the changerooms – Smith was dawdling along in between Rabada and the slips/keeper/gully fielders with whom Rabada was mostly focused with his celebration.

          One (Smith) was walking off the cut edge of the pitch and the other – Rabada – was walking along the inside cut edge of the pitch. Rabada was not directly in the face of Smith.

          Mountain out of a molehill. But yes – a potentially not good look and Rabada needs perhaps to wind it back in a smidge. But – gee – gotta love the passion.

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2018 @ 11:28am
            JamesH said | March 21st 2018 @ 11:28am | ! Report

            I love the passion too, and good on him if he learns to direct it better. The game needs characters.

            But good grief, that footage shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that his attention was focused on Smith. He is looking – and screaming – right at him. He even turns his head towards Smith as they are passing. Have a look at the link in my comment below. It’s utterly damning, particularly the last few seconds.

            I know there were teammates beyond Smith. That doesn’t change where Rabada’s attention was right before the contact. The Commissioner clearly agreed, since he said Rabada’s conduct “lacked respect” for Smith and “contravened the principle that a dismissed batsman should be left alone”.

            • March 21st 2018 @ 2:48pm
              Connolly said | March 21st 2018 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

              His changing direction towards Smith is necessary to the charge but not sufficient. He had to have intent to make physical contact. Surely the lightness of the shirt brush would strongly suggest he had no intention of making physical contact. Did he miss him? Did he want to feather duster him? And you cant reach a conclusion of beyond a shadow of a doubt (mate I hope you don’t end up on my jury) on the evidence. You might think it on the balance of probabilities but that wont get you a conviction. The standard is comfortable satisfaction. I would suggest you pre-judged it. Which is why an eminent neutral was brought in to determine it by the rules. Its called fair play and procedural fairness.

          • March 21st 2018 @ 12:57pm
            Jacko said | March 21st 2018 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

            but james it would appear that you are wrong….the courts have decided….Your 1 eye did not see the complete picture

            • March 21st 2018 @ 1:22pm
              Spruce Goose said | March 21st 2018 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

              Joke of a comment Jacko.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2018 @ 2:11pm
                spruce moose said | March 21st 2018 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

                imitation is the best form of flattery eh?

          • Roar Guru

            March 22nd 2018 @ 12:00am
            Chris Kettlewell said | March 22nd 2018 @ 12:00am | ! Report

            I do question, when people suggest his change of direction towards Smith was just about his team mates, if they are only going off the footage from behind Rabada. That’s the most commonly shown angle, but when it came out you could see replays that included several different angles, and from the other side you could clearly see Rabada focussing screams on Smith and angling more towards him, including a very last second change of direction and scream right in his ear as he went past which resulted in the bump.

            Obviously, without mind-reading technology you can’t fully know intent, but from all the angles available, it seems the much more likely option that his direction changes which all took him closer to Smith, not further away, were intended for that purpose, not just accidentally.

            • March 22nd 2018 @ 11:07am
              Perry Bridge said | March 22nd 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report


              There are a number of angles and you need to review them all to work out exactly where Rabada is at any given time.

              The big ‘scream’ supposedly at Smith immediately after the shoulder brush occurred with Rabada behind Smith and was directed straight at his team mate to whom he was tracking and about to do a high 5.

              But – from front on it looks worse. It shows just how deceptive TV angles can be.

              Your suggestion that Rabada focussed screams at Smith is a moot point – this is where I again assert that from some angles it looks so – but – that’s because on a couple of angles it looks like they are tracking toward each other – but they were not. What looked to be ‘in ya face’ was not directed at Smith at all.

              I really don’t think Rabada was paying Smith sufficient attention at all – and therein was the issue.

        • March 21st 2018 @ 4:01pm
          John Erichsen said | March 21st 2018 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

          When those change of direction claims fail to acknowledge Rabada’s path to his celebrating team mates, i am more than comfortable with challenging their correctness.
          A good appeal given the obvious inability to prove the “deliberate” aspect of the charge.

          Now, we can beat SA’s best and clinch the series.

    • Roar Guru

      March 21st 2018 @ 8:47am
      Charging Rhino said | March 21st 2018 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      To everyone commenting: For the 48,000th time. He has not “got off” or gone “unpunished”.
      It was reduced from 3 demerit points to 1 point. He also copped 1 point for the Warner send off.
      The difference is the 1 point puts him at 7 demerits, 1 point under the 8 point threshold for suspension. Whereas the 3 originally dished out (incorrectly as this appeal has concluded) put him at 9 points. And therefore the two match suspension.

      • March 21st 2018 @ 10:38am
        jameswm said | March 21st 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        1 point under the 8-point threshold for a 2-game suspension. What is the threshold for a 1-game suspension?

        • Roar Guru

          March 21st 2018 @ 4:02pm
          Charging Rhino said | March 21st 2018 @ 4:02pm | ! Report

          Hi James, 4 points for 1 game suspension. Which he has already served. An additional 4 points in the same 24 months period gets you a two game suspension.

      • March 21st 2018 @ 3:18pm
        Dave said | March 21st 2018 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

        Good point Rhino. Though I too wonder why it was reduced to 1 rather than 2 demerit points.

        • March 21st 2018 @ 7:34pm
          rebel said | March 21st 2018 @ 7:34pm | ! Report

          The offwnce that he was originally charged with carries 3 points. The offence he has now been found guilty of carries one point.

    • March 21st 2018 @ 9:05am
      Mike Dugg said | March 21st 2018 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      The Aussies’ behavior in the first game was worse than anything Rabada did anyway. They’re the ones who should be facing suspension.

      • March 21st 2018 @ 10:38am
        jameswm said | March 21st 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report


      • March 21st 2018 @ 1:23pm
        Spruce Goose said | March 21st 2018 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

        except they dont have the horrendous track record of Rabada..

        • Roar Guru

          March 21st 2018 @ 1:40pm
          spruce moose said | March 21st 2018 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

          Imitation is the best form of flattery eh?

      • Roar Rookie

        March 21st 2018 @ 6:00pm
        Pedro The Fisherman said | March 21st 2018 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

        It seems obvious that you have not been watching the cricket at all!

    • March 21st 2018 @ 9:08am
      I ate pies said | March 21st 2018 @ 9:08am | ! Report

      Regardless of the contact, since when is it acceptable to run up to someone you’ve just got out and yell in their face? When you take into account his past indiscretions there’s no doubt that he should have been rubbed out.
      Cricket is looking very ugly at the moment.

      • March 21st 2018 @ 10:38am
        jameswm said | March 21st 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        No it isn’t acceptable – hence the one demerit point for that, plus one for doing the same with Warner.

        • March 21st 2018 @ 12:18pm
          I ate pies said | March 21st 2018 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

          Well there should be an overhaul of the demerit points system then. This bloke continually gets away with behaviour that’s unsportsmanlike because the system allows him to get away with it.
          By allowing him to play the ICC are implicitly making this behaviour acceptable.

          • March 21st 2018 @ 1:11pm
            jameswm said | March 21st 2018 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

            He had a 1 game ban against England.

          • March 21st 2018 @ 1:44pm
            Riccardo said | March 21st 2018 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

            “This bloke continually gets away with behaviour that’s unsportsmanlike because the system allows him to get away with it.

            By allowing him to play the ICC are implicitly making this behaviour acceptable.”

            Aahhh, the irony.

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