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Bad environment in SA cricket will not be an excuse if Proteas lose to India, says Dean Elgar

FILE - Proteas captain Dean Elgar. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

FILE - Proteas captain Dean Elgar. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Dec 21, 2021

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Johannesburg — As difficult, confusing and plain “crappy” as the last couple of years have been in South African cricket, the Proteas Test captain, Dean Elgar, said it wouldn’t be used as an excuse if the team loses the upcoming Test series against India.

With the sport mostly attracting bad headlines — a lot of it related to issues off the field — it’s been very hard for the players to make the actual playing of the game the focus of everyone’s attention. Just two days into the penultimate week of the year, when everyone should be looking forward to the first Test against India that starts on Sunday, South African cricket has served up news about legal inquiries, the cancellation of the domestic T20 competition and the absence of crowds for the Test series.

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“As a player’s group we’ve got used to bad news around us the last year and a half,” Elgar said on Tuesday. “It’s not ideal to have these headlines. We want to focus on our cricket, focus on playing a really tough series.” .

“You try to implement a game plan with these kinds of things and you have to be sincere and trust that game plan. What’s happened off the field, for me, is irrelevant now. As a player’s unit, we’ve been through such crappy times, we’ve actually formulated a good bond in the group.”

The Indians present a difficult challenge at the best of times - and currently the environment in South African cricket is far from good. “If all this stuff had happened in the first month - the bad scenarios - then maybe it might be (an excuse), but we’ve been there, and we’ve formulated something that has worked for us,” said Elgar.

“As a player group we’re extremely strong. Our culture’s been tested, pushed to levels I didn’t think it would be pushed to in my short time as captain. We’ve come out on top of it. It’s also about the learning processes behind that, we must still be mindful that even if things are bad off the field, we can’t use that as a cop-out. We are professionals, we must strive to reach those areas where we still want to go as a team. We want to go up the rankings, we are focused on cricket and hopefully cricket will look after us.”

Elgar explained that the toughest parts to deal with over the last few years have been the administrative meltdowns at Cricket SA, which has seen the organisation employ four different people as CEOs in the last two years, two boards and an interim board, and various senior officials come and go. “We’ve had so many different administrators that we don’t even know who’s there now. We haven’t had a lot of stability from an administrative point of view and hopefully, sooner rather than later, a lot more stability comes within Cricket SA,” he remarked.

He felt that support for the Proteas coaching staff was lacking. “As players maybe we must say ‘we back our coaches, we back our management,’ we need to give them a lot of love. They put in a lot of work, and it goes unnoticed and it gets watered down by the media. I know what they do behind the scenes and it speaks volumes when it comes to our environment.”

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Mark Boucher, the Proteas head coach, has barely had a moment’s respite since being appointed on a four-year contract back in 2019. The team’s record on the field hasn’t been good, although there’s been mitigating circumstances for that, including the blooding of new players, the appointment of a new chief national selector, who has a range of teams for whom he’s responsible, the instituting of new structures within SA cricket, all of which has happened amidst a global pandemic which has seen domestic matches curtailed and tours cancelled.

Then there’ve been the revelations concerning Boucher at the Social Justice and Nation Building hearings. The full fallout of those will only become clearer in the new year. “It’s not nice to see our coaches get lambasted for things and I know the work they are putting in behind the scenes which no one else sees. Only us, as a player group, notice that and we are extremely grateful for the hard work that they put in. That’s one of the biggest downsides of what’s been happening in the last while.”

@shockerhess

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