Australia captain Steve Smith has hinted that Australian players will look to target South Africa spearhead Kagiso Rabada knowing the speedster is just one serious incident away from a two-Test suspension.
Rabada has already missed one Test match due to suspension – against England at Trent Bridge last year – and was fined 15 percent of his match fee and given one demerit point for his send-off of India opener Shikhar Dhawan in this month’s fifth ODI at Port Elizabeth.
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The 22-year-old now has five demerit points in total and should he earn three more he will be suspended for up to two Test matches having reached eight points in a 24-month period.
No player in the history of Test cricket with at least 120 wickets has a strike rate lower than Rabada, who captures a wicket every 39.7 deliveries, so it comes as no surprise that the Australians have looked at every possible avenue to try and blunt the express paceman’s impact on the series.
“It could perhaps be a plan to try and get him fired up,” Smith told cricket.com.au last week in Johannesburg. “You never know what some guys do when they’re fired up. He’s obviously a quality bowler and a big player for them. You don’t want to see guys getting suspended or anything like that, you want to come up against the best, but you never know.”
Rabada’s demerit point problems started 12 months ago when he was fined 50 percent of his match fee and handed three demerit points for coming into avoidable contact with Sri Lanka batsman Niroshan Dickwella during a one-day international in Cape Town.
Five months later he was fined and given one demerit point for giving England all-rounder Ben Stokes a send-off involving inappropriate language that could be heard over the stump microphones.
That brought his overall tally to four points and triggered an automatic suspension for one Test, which South Africa won in Nottingham, but the send-off of Dhawan at Newlands less than a fortnight ago has him within one more incident like the Dickwella run-in from missing more matches.
The first Test of the four-match series between host South Africa and Australia will go underway from March 1 in Durban.