Veteran Australian Test paceman Peter Siddle has thrown his support behind South African firebrand Kagiso Rabada as the Proteas quick stares down the barrel of a series-ending suspension.
Rabada faced a hearing with match referee Jeff Crowe after play on day three of the second Test in Port Elizabeth, having been charged with a level two offence for bumping Australian captain Steve Smith after dismissing him on day one of the match.
Rabada, who has prior offences, stands to be rubbed out for the last two Tests of the series, with a decision to be handed down on Monday morning South African time.
Rabada’s absence would be a huge blow for the Proteas, with the speedster taking eight wickets across the first three days of the Test, leading his side into the box seat to level the series at 1-1.
Siddle has shown his own fiery streak across 62 Tests for Australia, and said he had empathy for the young South African.
“It’s all the emotion of the game, and the challenges of Test cricket. I love the way he goes about it,” Siddle said.
“I personally don’t want to see him miss. You want to see the star players out on the field. I know he does push the boundaries, [he’s] probably got to control himself a little bit at different times.
“You still have to be pretty controlled. I know he does push the boundaries quite a lot, but I do enjoy watching him, how we goes about it. I know that I get excited on lbw shouts and when I get big wickets.”
Even the prospect of a suspension having over his head didn’t curb Rabada’s passion on day three, with the paceman giving a send-off to Australian vice-captain David Warner after taking the opener’s wicket.
Siddle acknowledged that Rabada had probably gone too far at times during the match, but said that the spiteful nature of the series - highlighted by Warner’s now infamous run-in with South Africa’s Quinton de Kock, was par for the course.
“All the series I’ve played against South Africa that’s how it’s always been. It’s probably been blown up a little bit more because of what happened in the footage that we all saw in the race,” Siddle said.
“I think it’s all been above board and everyone’s been pretty controlled so far.
“I like those battles. I think that’s what makes great Test cricket. It makes people want to watch it and enjoy it.”
Siddle hasn’t played for Australia since late 2016, but remains a key part of Victoria’s Sheffield Shield side.
The Bushrangers are vying for a fourth straight shield title, heading to Hobart this week to confront Tasmania in what is effectively a showdown for the right to face Queensland - almost certainly away - in next week’s final.
It would be a monumental effort from the Bushrangers given they were on the bottom of the ladder only two games ago, having gone winless before Christmas.
“We want to go down there with the mindset of winning the game, and lead into the final with some good momentum,” Siddle said before Victorian training at the MCG.
“Our form after Christmas has been outstanding. “
Siddle has played just two shield finals across his career of well over a decade, and said the chance to play another decider would be significant.
“It’d be massive,” he said. “Even though I’ve been with Victoria for 13, 14 years, I haven’t actually been part of a lot of shield finals. Personally it’d be good to get in one.
“But from a Victorian point of view, to be able to try and push for that four in a row, it’s massive for the group of guys here now, but [also] for the group over the last couple of years. A little bit of a legacy.”
Among those standing in Victoria’s way this is the in-form Matthew Wade, who defected to his home state in the off-season after a decade with the Bushrangers, including a sting as captain.
“It’s going to be a bit weird coming up against him,” Siddle said.
“We’ve played together with a lot of these guys in this group for a long time, so it is going to be a weird experience coming up against him. It was earlier in the year when we played.
“I think there’ll always be a little bit of lip [with him]. I think that’s the way he likes to play the game.”