Grace Road show

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

DEAN El­gar won’t be do­ing cart­wheels in the hall­ways of the team ho­tel nor will he be sweat­ing pro­fusely over be­ing handed the cap­taincy of his coun­try for a Test match at Lord’s.

There’s ex­cite­ment sure, but El­gar’s a phleg­matic char­ac­ter and so for the time be­ing at least, he can calmly go about en­sur­ing the play­ers get their mind in the right place for the four-day tour match against the Eng­land Lions start­ing at Grace Road in Worces­ter this morn­ing.

Next week will be dif­fer­ent, there’ll def­i­nitely be more than just a sin­gle TV cam­era fo­cused on the 30 year old when he’ll face in­ter­ro­ga­tion about the Proteas’ readi­ness to tackle Eng­land in the ab­sence of the reg­u­lar skip­per and with the cloud of con­tro­versy re­gard­ing AB de Vil­liers’s fu­ture still hang­ing over the team.

“It’s been a dream of mine and even if it doesn’t hap­pen at Lord’s, it’s still a great op­por­tu­nity to be a se­nior leader within the team,” El­gar said at Grace Road yes­ter­day.

“You have to put your pride away and think of your­self as some­one who can in­flu­ence an en­vi­ron­ment, you’ve got to try and in­flu­ence the play­ers which is the big­gest thing and ob­vi­ously the lead­er­ship qual­i­ties you pos­sess have to come out.”

Ahead of the spot­light of a Test se­ries in Eng­land, there are other press­ing mat­ters on El­gar’s agenda in the next few days as he seeks to gal­vanise those who’ve been in­volved in the lim­ited overs matches with those who’ve been play­ing for SA “A” and oth­ers who are re­turn­ing from a break into a co­he­sive unit to face a very strong Eng­land Lions side.

“What’s hap­pened with the One-Day­ers and the T20s is in the past and it’s time to crack on with the proper for­mat of Test cricket now,” El­gar said.

“We’ve got to com­pete, this is a good Eng­land Lions side. So to get that com­pet­i­tive edge is a big thing for us, nat­u­rally the guys will have that in­stinct. It’s a very big three days of cricket ahead of us.”

Not only must El­gar get the play­ers ac­cus­tomed to hav­ing him as cap­tain – with Faf du Plessis ex­pected to miss the first Test to be present at the birth of his first child – but he’ll have to rekin­dle bonds with a new open­ing part­ner, while set­tling a new bats­man into the mid­dle or­der in Du Plessis’s place.

One piece of good news is that El­gar seems to be in some very good form. He’s spent the last few months with Som­er­set and has scored over 500 runs in 12 in­nings with two cen­turies and two 50s in the four-day County Cham­pi­onship. In ad­di­tion, he’s also scored over 500 runs in six One-Day matches pass­ing 50 each time and turn­ing one of those into a hun­dred.

El­gar doesn’t feel there should be much trou­ble form­ing a com­bi­na­tion with Heino Kuhn at the top of the or­der, cit­ing the pair’s lengthy friend­ship. “Heino and I are best of mates, we’ve been that way for many years. We’ve opened the bat­ting back home. He’s not un­fa­mil­iar to me. I’m sure our chem­istry will go onto the field.”

Kuhn’s en­thu­si­asm at join­ing the Test squad has been in­fec­tious, ac­cord­ing to El­gar, and it’s hav­ing a pos­i­tive ef­fect on the group as they look ahead to what will be a tough as­sign­ment against an Eng­land side that will also have a new skip­per in Joe Root next week.

“They seem to be go­ing through a bit of change,” El­gar said of Eng­land.

“Ob­vi­ously they have a new cap­tain and I’m sure he’ll have his own things he wants to im­ple­ment. I’m not sure they’re 100 per­cent cer­tain of their fi­nal XI, what­ever they put on the park we’ll have to deal with. We’ll have to fo­cus on what we have to work on,” he said.

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