(Photo: Getty Images)
By Adam Ellis
Match referee Jeff Crowe has said the verbal exchanges between South Africa and Australia players during the recent four-match Test series was the worst he has encountered as an ICC official.
A veteran of 14 years, Crowe described in an ICC document overviewing Kagiso Rabada’s appeal case how players on both sides overstepped the mark with their conduct.
Proteas fast bowler Rabada was banned for two matches for bumping shoulders with Australia captain Steve Smith in the second Test at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth.
“Never in my 14 years of refereeing have I seen such animosity between two teams that was mainly a result of the debacle in the previous Test in Durban,” Crowe commented.
“This I have no doubt is a contributing factor to the events that occurred under this COC (code of conduct) charge.”
The first Test of the series in Durban cranked the heat up for a fiery series when sledging between Australia vice-captain David Warner and South Africa wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock escalated into personal insults.
The subsequently leaked CCTV footage of Warner having to be held back by his team-mates in the stairwell as the teams retired to their changing rooms for the lunch interval led to Warner and de Kock both receiving a fine.
The third Test was then marred by a ball-tampering saga which saw one-year bans handed to Smith and Warner, and Cameron Bancroft suspended from selection for eight months.
With the likes of James Taylor and Graeme Swann expressing their views that Australia are the worst country in cricket for taking sledging beyond reason, Ricky Ponting dismissed the notion that there is a problem with the team culture.
“I honestly feel on this occasion the cultural stuff that’s been spoken about has probably been blown out of proportion to a certain degree,” Ponting said.
“As Australians, we like to play the game hard, we like to play the game fair. Fans expect the Australian player to play that way.”
Faf du Plessis weighed into the argument by defending Kagiso Rabada’s aggression towards Smith in the second Test.
“Obviously these days the attention has focused on what is allowed, what is not allowed, I just think that has changed so much over a year or two. Two or three years ago, that was the norm,” the South Africa captain said.
“I think we’re going on the sensitive side with everything at the moment. Every single incident is on camera… it’s Test cricket.
“People ask me where Test cricket is going. It’s about KG (Kagiso Rabada) running in for 15 overs trying to get someone out and when he does, he has to show some sort of passion. Otherwise you can just put a bowling machine out there and a robot to bat.”