Dale Steyn believes the demerit points hanging over Kagiso Rabada has handicapped South Africa’s ability to be as noisy in the field as Australia. In an interview with South African radio station Kfm, Steyn said it was like “taking a knife to a gunfight”, and has been a “little bit unfair” on South Africa.
Rabada has five demerit points to his name and has already been banned for a Test – the second Test against England last July – and if he collects three more he will be suspended for a minimum of two Tests, something neither he nor South Africa would want to risk. He has not had much verbal presence on the field, especially not compared to Australia, who have talked so much they even tried to get the stump mics turned off by mentioning rival sponsors’ names. Australia’s aggression did not even stop on the field. On the fourth day, David Warner had to be physically restrained by team-mates in the stairwell leading up to the changeroom and CCTV footage showed him shouting at Quinton de Kock.
South Africa have had no real riposte and Steyn is thought to be the one player who might show similar anger. When Steyn was asked about his own persona on the field, and if South Africa have anyone else who can do that, he immediately mentioned Rabada, but admitted the young quick has not been as intimidating as he could be.
“One other guy that actually gets involved is KG (Rabada) – he really does get stuck in,” Steyn said. “But I think after some of his last few incidents where he got into trouble – he got a ban and a fine and everything like that – he kind of has the handcuffs around him right now, which is a little unfair because if you look at the way some of the Aussies are going about it- and I’m not standing here and complaining, and I hope I don’t get a fine for saying that – but you kind of feel that you are taking out our best competitor, especially with that kind of presence, if you take him out of the game, it’s like taking a knife to a gunfight really. It’s a little bit unfair.”
Rabada has only had two moments where it appeared he might become involved in some verbals. After dismissing Warner in the second innings, Rabada gave him a small send-off, but passed his arm over his face to make it difficult to hear or see what he was saying. Rabada also came out of the dressing room alongside Faf du Plessis when Warner was having a go at de Kock but did not say anything. Instead he just loomed large, perhaps with the aim to step in if needed.
Meanwhile, Steyn remains on track to make a comeback for the third Test. He has not played any competitive cricket since the first Test against India in January, where he injured his heel on comeback from 13 months recovering from a shoulder injury. Steyn confirmed he is back to bowling but he has to play some first-class cricket before he can make an international return. He hoped he will be “on a cricket field by the end of next week.” He is likely to play for the Titans in a round of franchise matches which coincides with the second Test in a bid to make a return at Newlands, and take the three more wickets he needs to become South Africa’s leading Test bowler.