The suspension of Kagiso Rabada, and the resultant appeal, have once again highlighted misbehaviour on the cricket field.
The two main forms of this unruly behaviour are incessant and inane chatter from the fielding side, and the successful bowler giving the dismissed batsmen a send-off. Both forms are uncalled for and should be eradicated.
This won't occur until all concerned - players, coaches, umpires and administrators - stop saying that chatter is "a part of the game". My first response to anyone making that declaration would be: "Show me in the law book where it states that."
There is a place for gamesmanship, which has been around since the days of Dr WG Grace, and the odd abrasive comment will occur in the heat of the moment. Other than that batsmen are entitled to peace and quiet out in the middle and if it's not forthcoming, then the umpires should ensure calm is restored.
Prior to the South Africa series, the Australian team was reported as saying they might bait Rabada. At the time he was close to the required number of demerit points for suspension, and Australia's comments should have immediately raised the antennae of the match officials. Why the captains and coaches of both sides weren't immediately warned against that course of action is beyond belief.
Then South Africa reacted in a similar vein when David Warner reached a critical point on the demerit scale after his altercation with Quinton de Kock. On that occasion the riot act was read to both teams, but why aren't the officials proactive instead of reactive?
Australia have been at the centre of many of these storms and their constant on-field badgering of batsmen is tantamount to bullying. Workplace bullying is increasingly frowned upon in the wider community, but either cricket officials don't consider these actions to reach that level or they don't regard the cricket field as a workplace. Both conclusions are wrong.
This form of badgering gives Australia an advantage against probably all sides except South Africa, since the two teams experience a lot of this behaviour in their first-class competition.
It surprises me that teams like India choose to respond to Australian taunts in a similar manner. A well-timed smile or chuckle from someone as cerebral as Rahul Dravid would have a far more damning effect. There's nothing a bully hates more than to be laughed at. The fact that some of the "gentler" nations choose to respond in kind to the Australian tactics should be a warning signal to officials that they need to clamp down hard before words escalate into something physical.
The more chatter allowed on the field, the more likelihood a personally offensive comment will slip out. The Warner-de Kock spat in Durban is a classic example.
While players have to take responsibility for their words and actions, it's rather perplexing that some are encouraged to behave in this manner by captains and coaches. Not that long ago Australia chose a wicketkeeper not for his glovework but rather his ability to score runs and promote on-field chatter. Fortunately this anomaly has now been addressed.
It's bad enough that the hierarchy encourages this behaviour; of course the officials do so knowing it's not them that receives the fine or suspension. It's about time this situation was rectified: stiff penalties for all the culprits involved in bad behaviour - behind the scenes included - might change the outlook.
Good, hard, aggressive cricket is the ultimate aim and this will include the occasional on-field spat; it's bound to happen when highly competitive cricketers are locked in combat.
However, these should be spur-of-the-moment incidents. Good umpires see those situations looming and act quickly to release some of the tension. Premeditated plans to verbally unsettle an opponent are not part of the game and they should be eradicated by strong officiating. If they are not, then the players should take the law into their own hands; that will guarantee swift action.