Published On: Wed, Mar 7th, 2018

"Whose line is it," asks Gibson as SA maintain de Kock's innocence

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South Africa are maintaining Quinton de Kock’s innocence in the stairwell dispute, and hope to have him cleared of all charges at a hearing on Wednesday evening.

De Kock has been charged with a Level 1 offence following an incident on day four of the Durban Test.

CCTV footage of the passageway leading to the dressing rooms showed David Warner being physically restrained and shouting at de Kock, who did not respond. Warner was charged with a Level 2 offence on Tuesday evening, and fined 75% of his match fee. Though he has accepted those sanctions, Australia claim Warner was responding to a jibe from de Kock, and they say it was “personal.”

South Africa, however, have denied de Kock provoked Warner in any way. “We are appealing Level 1 because we think Quinny didn’t do anything,” the head coach Ottis Gibson said. “Quinny wasn’t aggressive. You saw some footage, and the footage showed Quinny walking up the stairs and somebody else being restrained, and then Quinny gets a Level 1. That doesn’t seem fair.”

Gibson would not comment on whether de Kock was entirely silent, and neither would several team sources. In fact, South Africa captain Faf du Plessis suggested the opposite at the post-match press conference when he admitted that things had got personal “on both sides.” Both then and now, South Africa insist Warner was the instigator.

“Quinny would not have said anything had something not been said to him in the first place. But I wasn’t out there. Faf was there. Faf probably knows what was said,” Gibson said. “But there’s one guy walking up the stairs going back to his dressing room, there’s another guy having to be restrained. If I am walking, trying to get back to my dressing room and somebody is being restrained, how can you fine me for something?”

Asked if de Kock said anything about Warner’s wife, which is what Australia are alleging, Gibson chose to focus on the undefined line and called for clarity. “I wasn’t there. I can’t categorically speak for another person. There’s this thing and I have seen it recently now about the line. They are saying they didn’t cross the line, but where is the line, who sets the line, where did the line come from? When you are saying you didn’t cross the line but we didn’t cross the line, you went very close to the line… whose line is it?”

What South Africa want is for the umpires to start answering that question. Du Plessis called for the umpires to step in immediately after the first Test. Kumar Dharmasena and S Ravi made no reports of code of conduct breaches, and Australia subsequently asserted that the umpires had “no problem” with what was said. Gibson, however, believed that the umpires must have heard something.

“The match officials are there to do a job and to govern the game on the field, and off the field I guess,” he said. “If they hear things on the field, they should clamp down on it. It becomes unfortunate when everybody else hears stuff and the match officials say they haven’t heard anything. They are there to do a job and they must do their job.

“If things are happening in the game and things are being said, and if it’s within earshot – if the player is standing at point or wherever he is fielding, surely the umpires can hear. Maybe the umpires need to stand up and take control of the game.

“Unhappy might not be the right word. We just feel that the umpires are there to do a job and they must do their job. When they hear things, they must take charge and don’t leave it to: ‘oh, we didn’t cross the line.’ Can you say whatever you want, and then when something is said, it’s offensive. You didn’t tell us where the line was. Let’s be clear where the line was.”

Dharmasena will officiate in the second Test that starts in Port Elizabeth on Friday; Ravi will not. New Zealand’s Chris Gaffaney will take Ravi’s place, and the two may have to deal with the escalating tension between these two sides.

“I am happy with aggression being shown on the field if it’s coming from the bowler,” Gibson said. “If a fast bowler is bowling bouncers and trying to intimidate batsmen, to me that’s aggression. When everybody else is chirping or sledging the batter as he is trying to bat, that’s not aggression in my book. That’s how I grew up, playing the game in the Caribbean. But, obviously, things change.”

Gibson recalled the West Indies greats of the past, who “didn’t have to (say anything) because they were aggressive with the ball and their body language, and that’s what aggression is. When a batsman is trying to take his guard and people are standing around and saying whatever they want to say, I’m not sure that it’s necessary.

“If a bowler has tried everything he can to get a batsman out and he can’t get him out because a batsman is playing well, and then they have to revert to that, then is it aggression? I don’t think that it is.”

That was the case at Kingsmead, where de Kock scored 83 and partnered Aiden Markram for a sixth-wicket stand of 147 which stalled Australia’s victory push and dragged the match into the fifth day. De Kock had not struck a half-century in 15 Test innings before that, and there were questions over his form. But Gibson believed the Durban knock showed what de Kock is capable of, both with bat and in his conduct.

“It takes a strong character to stand up and bat for three hours when everybody on the field is saying whatever they want to say to you. But then, as soon as you respond, then it’s a different thing. The game should be about cricket on the field. I feel like everybody needs to focus on cricket. Calm down and get back to cricket.”

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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