CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa coach Ottis Gibson believes the world’s best test bowler Kagiso Rabada has learnt from his brush with suspension and expects more mature on-field behaviour in the third test against Australia starting in Cape Town on Thursday.
Rabada successfully appealed against an International Cricket Council (ICC) sanction for brushing the shoulder of Australia captain Steve Smith while celebrating his dismissal in the second test, getting his punishment reduced from three demerit points to one.
That means he remains under the suspension threshold of eight in the last 24 months, freeing him to play in the remaining two matches of the acrimonious series which is poised at 1-1.
“He has been made very aware of his on-field celebrations,” Gibson told reporters on Tuesday.
“He’s not a bad kid, he is a bit over-exuberant at times. But there was not aggressive intent there apart from celebrating a wicket. He’s a smart kid and I am sure he has learnt his lesson. I don’t expect he will make the same mistake.”
Gibson acknowledged that having Rabada available is a massive boost to South Africa’s chances of winning the series.
“The number one bowler in the world being allowed to play cricket is exciting for everybody concerned. We are very happy he is allowed to play, we all believe it is the right decision at the end of the day.
“We have made him aware of responsibilities for the team, he is a very important player.”
Gibson added that Rabada is raring to go in the third test as he seeks to add to his 15 wickets in the series that have come at a cost of just 16.80 runs each, the best return from a bowler on either side.
“He’s a strong character. He came after six hours (in the appeal hearing) yesterday and all he wanted to do was practice,” Gibson said. “Him being available lifts everybody, he is the best bowler in the world.”
Gibson revealed that all 17 members of an expanded squad are available for selection and fast bowler Morne Morkel, who was dropped for the six wicket second test win in Port Elizabeth, remains in contention as he sits three wickets shy of 300 in what is his last test series before retirement.
“We are still putting together the final XI at this stage, we don’t know where we will try to make a change. That will become a lot clearer this afternoon after practise. We are trying to win a series, we will select a team to do that,” he said.
Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Christian Radnedge