TELFORD VICE, Adelaide
HOW the hell did it come to this, a tawdry shoving match in an airport between television reporters in expensive suits and security men in tracksuits?
And that, lest we forget, on a cricket tour, which is far removed from some trashy altercation between vulturish paparazzi and the hired goons of self-important celebrities with more Twitter followers than class.
At least, a cricket tour should be far removed from all that. And for a few weeks South Africa’s visit to Australia was no more nor less than that: a cricket tour.
There were runs and wickets to talk about, catches taken and dropped, matches won and lost, a series to be won lost or shared, and selections that were made, weren’t made or should and shouldn’t have been made.
Not that any cricket tour to Australia by South Africa is only that. It is also an exercise in the kind of latent, smouldering nationalism that has no place in sport.
That, perhaps, was how push came to shove at Adelaide airport on Monday.
In fact it first happened at the weekend, when Faf du Plessis was accosted by reporters outside the squad hotel in Melbourne.
The reporters wanted to ask Du Plessis about the ball-tampering charges he faces. Team management said that would not be allowed. The questions came anyway, and things got physical.
But not as violently as they did in Adelaide on Monday. Team officials again told waiting reporters that no questions could be asked of the South African players as they moved through the airport. Again the request was ignored.
After Du Plessis, in sunglasses and headphones, had – according to team management – ignored three questions a reporter thrust a microphone in the South African captain’s face.
This was interpreted as a security breach by the squad’s travelling protection officer, Zunaid Wadee – who can be seen in footage of the incident shoving and shoulder-charging the reporter away.
Other pictures showed South African team manager Mohammed Moosajee appearing to try and shield Du Plessis from an advancing journalist by walking into the space between them. The reporter then shoved Moosajee in the back.
After the fracas Hashim Amla, who voiced a passionate defence of Du Plessis in Melbourne on Friday, posted on social media: “Disappointed. Such provocative behaviour from reporters. Let a man walk in peace. Ask with manners and courtesy and you probably will get a response.”
In a Cricket South Africa (CSA) release on Monday, Moosajee was quoted as saying, “The Australian media and Channel 9 News in particular have been advised on numerous occasions over the past few days that CSA and captain Faf du Plessis are not in a position to comment on the alleged ball-tampering issue.
“However despite our best to intentions to co-operate with the Australian media, Channel 9 News’ behaviour has been disappointing. We have advised of our media protocol which has been blatantly ignored, both at the team’s hotel in Melbourne on Friday and Saturday and again at the airport in Adelaide (on Monday).
“This is the third incident of a reporter aggressively harassing our players with blatant disrespect of the above-mentioned media protocol.”
Moosajee was quoted as saying that the reporter “disrespected us and continued to harass Faf for comment”, that he was “in the unusual position of being in the middle of the players’ walkway to the bus” and that he was “advised to move three times and did not adhere to this request”.
The fact that the reporter was not wearing accreditation and then “proceeded to lunge towards Faf with an unknown object causing a direct breach of security protocol” prompted the emphatic response from Wadee.
TMG Digital asked the Channel 9 News executive producer for South Australia, Andrew Rutter, whether the network would lay charges of assault and if they had an opinion on Wadee’s behaviour and Amla’s tweet.
“We have nothing to add in relation to events (on Monday),” Rutter said.
The Sydney Morning Herald took a dim view on its website under a headline that said it all: “South Africa have lost the plot and their security guard … should be sent home”.
The accompanying article began, “The South Africans have lost the plot. The indignation of their players at accusations of ball-tampering … have been difficult enough to swallow, but the thuggish behaviour of their touring security guard … is unacceptable.”
All of which might have prompted the International Cricket Council (ICC) to delay Du Plessis’ hearing until after the third test and once the South Africans have left Australia.
Instead, as an ICC release on Monday said, “in the interests of expediency and in order to protect the integrity of the Adelaide test” a preliminary hearing was held on Monday and the real thing scheduled for Tuesday at 7am (South African time).
Too right. Let’s lance this boil already.
* This article has been amended to reflect that fact that Du Plessis’ hearing will be on Tuesday. An earlier version quoted an ICC spokesperson as saying details of the hearing had yet to be decided.