Grace Road show
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.