Former England captain Michael Atherton has criticised the ICC’s decision to punish South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada with a demerit point for his celebration upon the dismissal of Joe Root on day one of the Port Elizabeth Test, leading to a ban for the fast bowler for the fourth Test.
Having now accumulated four demerit points over the course of the last 24 months, Rabada has been suspended for one Test match, meaning his participation in the ongoing four-Test series with England will come to an end at the conclusion of the ongoing match.
After animatedly celebrating in front of Root after bowling him on day one, the ICC punished Rabada for a level one breach of its code of conduct, relating to “using language, actions or gestures which disparage or which could provoke an aggressive reaction from a batter upon his or her dismissal during an international match”.
Rabada’s previous three offences in the two-year period were also for send-offs, with his celebrations upon dismissing Shikhar Dhawan, Steve Smith and David Warner landing him in hot water.
Conducting commentary duties for SuperSport on day two, Atherton called Rabada “a slow learner” but questioned whether his celebration merited punishment on this occasion.
“There are two issues,” Atherton said. “One is the current ICC regulations, and Rabada has no complaints under the current ICC regulations, and he’s a slow learner because he’s done it before.
“But I don’t have a problem with that celebration. He’s not swearing at the batsman, he’s not abusing the batsman. It’s a little overzealous, and it’s a little close to Joe Root. But is that worthy of a demerit point and a subsequent ban? I don’t think so.
“[Match referee] Andy Pycroft has acted according to the regulations, and Rabada is a slow learner because it’s not the first time this has happened. You’ve got to allow players some leeway. It’s baking hot, he’s charging in. And he’s not swearing at the opposition, he’s not abusing the opposition.”
Fellow commentator Michael Holding criticised Rabada for failing to learn from his previous offences, saying: “You have got to understand the conditions under which you’re playing.
“You know the playing conditions, you know the conditions under which the ICC have put down their code of conduct, don’t abuse it.
“He has to learn. You don’t keep repeating the same mistake.”