If events on the dramatic final day of England and South Africa’s Lord’s Test match are anything to go by, then it appears Kagiso Rabada has learned his lesson.
The South African fast bowler has had a few days he is unlikely to look back on with much fondness, his team thrashed inside four days as he picked up a one match ban in the process – his sweary send-off to Ben Stokes in England’s first innings earning him a fourth demerit point in two years from the ICC.
However when he struck again to dismiss Stokes second time around, the 22-year-old took a less crude approach, replacing the shout of “f*** off” with a rather more nuanced celebration.
It would appear that the ICC’s attempts to curb players swearing, with the introduction of demerit points in September 2016, have had an instant effect, and with the added bonus of providing a moment of comedy during the first Test of the English summer.
When Stokes was trapped LBW by Rabada, the fast bowler celebrated by first rubbing the back of his head, an apparent reference to the Englishman’s visible bald patch and then putting his finger to his lips, although not before his captain Dean Elgar had run in as well to jokingly cover Rabada’s mouth with his own hand.
It showed perhaps that in punishing Rabada, albeit slightly harshly in the eyes of some, the young fast bowler had learnt a lesson from the ICC’s new system – and if his future celebrations maintain the same level of comedy then it will be something to benefit cricketing spectators everywhere as well.
Rabada is said to be “heartbroken” by suspension and has been defended by many former players, including former Proteas skipper Graeme Smith, however he will still be forced to miss South Africa’s next Test at Trent Bridge.
"The first person that gets to him when he takes a wicket needs to throw a hand over his mouth, like I did," said stand in captain Elgar after the match. "Hopefully, he learns from this.”
"He realises that he is missing a game for South Africa which hurts, he has possibly let the team down," Elgar added. "Even more so, he has let himself down. I'm not 100 percent sure he has apologised to the team. A lot of things have happened in the past four days but I know he has apologised to senior management."
"It's a big loss for everything - A big loss for the Proteas, a big loss for Test cricket," Elgar said. "He is a vitally important bowler within our attack. He adds a different dynamic to our bowling attack, he has the aggression factor which is quite important in Test cricket to get those breakthroughs. He has been a phenomenal strength for us in all formats. It's an opportunity for someone else to come in and maybe start a career, maybe it's just for one game. The game of cricket is at a loss for him not playing.”
Whatever your thoughts on the ICC’s relatively new demerit points are, perhaps this match showed that it does actually have the potential to benefit the game, Rabada was punished for how he behaved in the first innings and changed his behaviour accordingly in the second, as clear an example of the system working as you could ask for.