Comments emanating from South Africa’s cricket team suggest it will enter Monday’s hearing over Kagiso Rabada’s two-Test ban with high hopes but low expectations.
Judicial commissioner Michael Heron, who is based in New Zealand and more commonly assesses tip tackles and other Super Rugby incidents, will soon chair a video conference over Rabada’s charge of making “inappropriate and deliberate physical contact” with Steve Smith during the second Test.
Heron then has 48 hours to reach a verdict.
That timeline ensures the saga, which started when the Proteas spearhead brushed Smith’s shoulder during a screaming send-off, should be over before the four-Test series continues in Cape Town on Thursday.
See the incident below:
— Michael Sherman (@Golfhackno1) March 9, 2018
The judicial stoush has captivated much of the Rainbow Nation’s attention. Rabada’s representative Dali Mpofu opined it “has implications for our shared project of nation-building”, while former Springboks behemoth Bakkies Botha is among those to have weighed in.
Rabada would be a huge loss for the hosts, with the series level at 1-1 after he bowled them to victory in Port Elizabeth.
But the 22-year-old is seemingly resigned to the fact he won’t be playing at Newlands, having admitted he erred during the press conference that followed a haul of 11-150.
“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. I would’ve loved to have been playing the next game,” he said at the time.
Later in the week, the world’s top-ranked Test bowler told reporters he takes “responsibility for what happened”.
That was the view taken by match referee Jeff Crowe, who noted in a public statement that Rabada “had the opportunity to avoid the contact”.
“I could not see any evidence to support the argument that the contact was accidental,” Crowe said.
Faf du Plessis knows as well as anybody how hard it can be to overturn a match referee’s verdict at a formal appeal. South Africa’s skipper unsuccessfully took his ball-tampering charge resulting from ‘mint-gate’ to a judicial commissioner.
“Our strike rate is zero per cent at the moment with trying to challenge these cases, it will probably stay at zero,” du Plessis said after the second Test.
It is unclear whether Mpofu intends presenting new evidence. He is expected to argue both Rabada and Smith are culpable.
Heron has the option to settle on a new punishment for Rabada but it would be a major surprise if he opts for a harsher punishment.
Rabada’s problem is his poor disciplinary record, having started the series with five demerit points.
The International Cricket Council’s laws dictate that eight points result in an automatic two-Test ban, so he will most likely miss the next two Tests unless the charge is thrown out altogether.