LONDON - The hope for Joe Root is that he will hold onto the job as England captain for the next decade. The hope for Dean Elgar is that he doesn’t completely stuff up the captaincy in the next five days.
Both lead their respective teams for the first time at the sport’s most storied venue but their futures as captains are very different. Root, has been groomed for this position. Elgar’s got the job by quirk of fate.
Nevertheless, Elgar can see the long term benefits in leading his country. “There’s the fact that I can contribute more within the team. Maybe thinking a bit more about the team and less about myself - it can happen in international cricket, you tend to worry about your own game, and not have to make the tough calls, which is sometimes a blessing and a curse. Leadership involves making those tough calls and if that is influencing the environment, that’s something I enjoy.”
There hasn’t been an official vice-captain in the South African Test team since Faf du Plessis took over last summer, but it’s safe to assume Elgar will be that from now on. He admitted that off the field he could be a “clown” but once he stepped across the boundary rope he exuded a tougher and more aggressive personality. It’s the way he expects the team to play in the first Test.
“They’ve got their own insecurities - new leadership, new faces in their batting line-up, a few injury concerns,” Elgar said about England.
“So, I see it as a good time to try and make a dent in the series. It’s going to be tough, irrespective of where you play them in the world, England is tough, but here in England it will be a little more challenging.”
It’s a clever tactic from Elgar. South Africa have their own insecurities, most notably with regard the batting.
Mystery surrounds the pitch, which has been undercover for most of the last two days - both of which were warm ones in the English capital. The home team weren’t bothered with taking a look yesterday, and Root felt comfortable enough in naming a starting side that includes four seamers and two spinners - the first time England have picked two tweakers to start at this ground since 1993.
“Liam (Dawson’s) character is exceptional - the way he bowled in India and so far this season has been brilliant. He’ll bring us a lot of control and a bit of depth in our batting as well,” Root said of the slow left-arm bowler.
England’s is a strangely structured team; there are three all-rounders and the three front line seamer bowlers, which provides Root with a lot of bowling options. But like South Africa there are concerns over the batting most notably opener Keaton Jennings and Gary Ballance, who Root confirmed will bat at No 3.
“I look at his game now and he looks a completely different player and I think he’s desperate to prove a point and score big runs in this series,” Root said of Ballance.
Root did admit there’s a lot of “unknowns” - as far as his leadership and how the England team will play is concerned.
“I wouldn’t be taking the job on if I didn’t think I was capable of doing it ...
"There’s a lot of unknown things coming into this job but I’ve always been quite confident in what I’m capable of and I don’t see why I will go about this any differently.”