WATCH – The start of the Warner-de Kock clash
Steven Smith and Faf du Plessis have been reminded of their responsibilities, as captains of Australia and South Africa, to work with the umpires to stop their players from getting out of control – thereby ensuring no repeat of the ugly scenes that marred the Durban Test.
In a meeting at St George’s Park on the eve of the second Test, the match referee Jeff Crowe and the umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Chris Gaffaney stated that they would be keeping ears peeled for any potential flash points, following criticism by both du Plessis and the former Australian opener Simon Katich that the umpires needed to be more proactive.
“It was nice to just have a chat and just ensure that we’re playing within the spirit of the game, and that cricket is what’s written about and talked about after this game,” Smith said after the meeting. “[After the first Test] it has all been about the indiscretions of the last fixture and it’s not what we want for the game. It’s about staying in line; there’s nothing wrong with a bit of banter out on the field, just making sure that we’re not getting personal.
“That [umpires monitoring behaviour] was also talked about. More with the fact that if they hear something going on, it’s about going to either myself or Faf and ensuring that we have our troops in line and playing within the guidelines. That was basically the conversation.”
The two captains outlined how their approaches differ, though both agreed that conversation on the field of play was fine so long as it did not veer into hurtful territory. Du Plessis said that his team was not as vocal as Australia, concentrating more on strong body language.
“I have a lot of respect for every team that we play against. The style of play that that team comes with is probably the style of play that they feel they need,” du Plessis said. “If you play New Zealand, they are the nice guys. They’re really friendly.
“Us as a team, and me as a captain, we are very similar in that I don’t see much value in what you say on the field having an impact on the performance you have as a team. For me it’s about focusing on what sort of presence you have, what sort of body language.”
Smith said that he left it up to each individual player to decide how best to get themselves “in the battle”, whether it was by keeping their own counsel or engaging with the opposition.
“I think for us, as an Australian team, we play our best when we play good, hard, aggressive cricket and find a way to get in the battle on the field.” he said. “Whatever way you have to get the best out of yourself… If that’s by having a bit of banter with someone then so be it, if that gets you motivated and up for the challenge then go for it. It’s pretty simple, it’s just about not crossing that line to go into that personal sort of space.”
By the same token, du Plessis said he was not looking for Australia to change their style of play, but only for the umpires to regulate it a little more firmly than was the case in Durban. “I’m not expecting Australia to change their style of play. They are a team that have always done it and they will always do it. They are not going to change overnight,” he said. “They’ve always had characters in their team. It’s not even the whole team. There are just two or three guys that you can see it’s almost their job in the team, to go that route.
“For me it will just be a case where if you have guys in your team who are pushing that line, as a captain, you make sure you keep them calm, and that things don’t get to a stage where it did in the previous game. If the captain is not close by, that role will fall to the umpires. I don’t have a problem with chirping, I think chirping is good for the game. It’s just… about that line.”
It remains to be seen how much pressure the St George’s Park peace pact can withstand.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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