Kagiso Rabada recognises the need to relook his on-field conduct, because the rate at which he is being charged for code of conduct violations is affecting the team. Rabada maintains he did not deliberately make contact with Australia captain Steven Smith when the pair brushed shoulders on the first day, in the incident which earned Rabada a Level 2 charge, but conceded that he needs to reign himself in.
“It’s going to have to stop. I can’t keep doing this because I am letting the team down and I am letting myself down,” Rabada said.
Even before he knew whether he would be found guilty of the offence in the Smith incident, Rabada was also charged with a Level 1 offence for his send off of David Warner in the second innings. Rabada screamed into Warner’s face after bowling him, after yelling into Smith’s in the first innings.
Over the last nine months, this is the third time Rabada’s send-offs have come into the spotlight. At Lord’s last July, he told Ben Stokes to “f*** off,” and did the same to Shikhar Dhawan in an ODI at St George’s Park last month. While captain Faf du Plessis does not see swearing as part of South Africa’s style of play, it has featured in Rabada’s send-offs, and may yet do so again, though he will direct his expletives elsewhere. “I won’t change the way I express myself but I just will get far away from the batter,” he said.
As far as physical contact goes, Rabada was insistent his brush with Smith was entirely accidental, which was the reason he opted to contest the charge.
“There are a lot of grey areas but rules are rules. The reason why we went for a hearing was because we believe that there’s not a lot of consistency. If I knew I did it deliberately, I wouldn’t have gone to contest,” Rabada said. “I didn’t even feel contact in that moment because I was so pumped up. If I did it deliberately then I wouldn’t have contested. It’s the same as with Lord’s – I didn’t try and appeal because I knew I did it.”
Though Rabada was speaking before he had received any official confirmation of a sanction, he appeared resigned to his fate. “It’s bittersweet. I would have loved to be playing in the next game. Actually I don’t know whether I will be playing or not. It’s not looking good,” he said. “Especially coming off a performance like that. I felt really good in this Test match.”
Rabada took 11 for 141 in the match, the second-best figures by a South African against Australia and the best by a pace-bowler. His scalps included five of Australia’s top six – only Cameron Bancroft did not fall to Rabada in either innings – and the two big fish, Smith and Warner, for whom he reserved his most explosive celebrations. When asked what goes through his mind when he lets loose like that, Rabada could not quite pinpoint it, but put it down to passion.
“I don’t know what I am thinking actually. To be honest, I just let it out,” he said. “It’s a big series, there is a lot to play for. There’s a whole lot of emotion and pride. You don’t want to roll over. You want to get them out. It’s competitive. There’s a history of South Africa and Australia playing against each other. You’re playing for the No.1 spot. There’s a whole lot that you’re playing for. Also playing for personal milestones and team milestones as well and it just comes out.”
Du Plessis understands Rabada’s emotional approach to the game and even offered sympathy for the big-brother approach the broadcasters now take. “If you look at the way KG plays the game, he is a competitive fast bowler and he works bloody hard. He runs in and he bowls quick for long periods of time and when he gets big wickets, that’s celebration, that’s energy and it’s pure passion that he shows,” du Plessis said. “These days, the attention has changed so much to what is allowed and what is not allowed, what is in the spirit of the game and what isn’t. I just think that has changed so much over the last year or two that you’re getting a lot more incidents happening than before.”
But now, Rabada had really realised he has to be able to stop it from happening again. “I’ve let myself down and the team down. I have to move forward. If I do get banned, I have to see it as a big learning curve. And not repeat the same mistake. I have repeated the same mistake in the eyes of the umpires. I am not happy about it but time moves on,” Rabada said.
He indicated he will use his time away for reflection and to get away from the game. “It gives me a chance to do other things, it gives me a chance to think about things more,” Rabada said.