Elgar saddened by sending Proteas ‘B’ to NZ, says bosses must save Test cricket

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02 January 2024 – 17:36 By Stuart Hess in Cape Town

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Dean Elgar during the Proteas’ training session and press conference at Newlands in Cape Town on Tuesday.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

As he takes his final bow from the international stage, Dean Elgar can only hope the format he holds most dear can retain the prominence it had when he made his debut 11 years ago. 

The Test format has taken many blows but perhaps, given the 24-hour/social media age, it feels like it’s battered and bruised as financial needs hold greater sway with T20 leagues taking hold around the world. 

However, the Test format, Elgar explained at Monday’s prematch press conference for the second Test against India starting at Newlands on Wednesday, is not beaten yet.

“Test cricket will still have a future. The younger guys in our change room still live for this format,” he said.

“Look, the situation we have been put in is not ideal. It is a little sad it has gone in that direction.

“Yes, the team for New Zealand is not ideal for the conversation of how I view Test cricket. Irrespective of what is going on behind the scenes there is still a lot of hunger for the guys who will be playing.”

The Proteas have picked seven uncapped players in a 14-man squad for a two-Test series against the Black Caps next month, with Cricket South Africa prioritising the SA20 tournament and holding back all the nationally contracted players to participate in it. 

It’s a decision, while not unexpected in South Africa or New Zealand, that has still drawn much opinion around the world. Some, like former Australian captain Michael Clarke, have criticised CSA. Others, like one of Clarke’s predecessor Steve Waugh, have demanded the International Cricket Council do more to protect the sport’s oldest format. 

Then there is current Australian captain Pat Cummins, who offered a more sober view, stating that the predicament that CSA found itself in was the result of the broader climate in the sport, particularly the packed international schedule, and perhaps it was just a phase. 

The SA20 has affected the Proteas in its first two years. Last year CSA cancelled an ODI series in Australia, which put the national men’s team in danger of not gaining an automatic qualifying spot for the World Cup and this year there is the New Zealand dilemma. 

“In the future it is up to administrators to make the right decisions for players and the longevity of [all] the formats, especially the Test format, which everyone has a lot of negativity about. As players, we need to go out and win, and show the hunger for the format.”

That Test series for South Africa in the next couple of years will only be made up of two matches was an area Elgar felt hindered the progress of players, while also undermining the format. The imbalance in world cricket is made clear when one considers that after this series, India’s next series is five Tests against England at the end of January. 

“Our guys need to be exposed more to playing against powerhouse Test nations. Our young guys need to be exposed to more Test cricket,” Elgar said.

“We are just players; you can fight for it and promote it as much as you can, but it is up to the powers that be to make the right calls for us.” 

The New Year’s Test, the highlight of the South African cricket calendar, holds a special place in Elgar’s heart. However he does not want the match, his last as a Protea, to be about him. Adding further personal lustre to the occasion is that he will also captain the team after Temba Bavuma’s injury-enforced withdrawal. 

“There are far too many memories. I’ll process that in my own time, maybe appreciate it more, but for now, I just want to play bloody good cricket and influence the younger guys that this is the style that South Africans have to adopt and then hopefully they can have as good memories and stories as I have now.” 

Having already ensured India’s record of never having won a Test series in South Africa is secure with the innings and 32-run victory in Centurion, all that remains is to claim a series victory.

“India is the powerhouse nation in the world and we are currently sitting with a great opportunity,” Elgar said.

“I’m not too focused on what is going on behind the scenes, as it relates to me. This is the highlight Test of the year. You don’t get much bigger or better against really tough opposition.

“It’s business as usual for me, I will worry about the retirement afterwards. The emotions will only set in after the game.”

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