Dean Elgar is ready for ’massive responsibility’ as Proteas Test captain
Former Proteas coach Russell Domingo once described Dean Elgar as someone who "epitomises South African cricket to the tee".
That was, of course ahead of Elgar's maiden jaunt as Test skipper when Faf du Plessis was granted paternal leave for the Lord's Test in 2017.
Domingo made further reference to the Proteas' opener's guts, tenacity and courage. He may as well have also have painted a character reference of former captain Graeme Smith, who exuded all these qualities during his 11-year reign at the helm of the national team.
So, why did Smith, who now is his guise as Director of Cricket SA, armed with the power and authority to install Elgar as the man to lead the Proteas during these current turbulent times, take so long to recognise these qualities in the southpaw from Welkom?
"I think there were a number of things we wanted to see. We took a decision not to mess in the space. We have been trying to find leaders and see who performs over the summer. I think everyone in the environment wanted to be confident to that reach that place where we had the right clarity to move forward with the right people. I think over time that it has become clearer Dean is the right man and it is common sense. I think we have reached the right decision now and with a new cycle of the Test championship about to begin, we feel it is the right time to back him," Smith said of Elgar's eventual appointment as the permanent Proteas Test captain on Thursday.
After the Lord's debacle in 2017, Elgar was though quick to point out that Du Plessis "can have it back" in reference to the captain's armband.
Smith certainly believes Elgar has matured over the past four years and is ready for the extra responsibility.
"I have played with Dean and known him a long time and he possesses the character we would like to see. I think Dean certainly leaves everything on the field," he said.
"I feel like he is ready, that he wants the job, and I think that's an important part of the job because if you are a reluctant captain it does make it very hard. The job does come with a lot of scrutiny. I feel Dean himself is ready and wants to take on the role."
The 33-year-old has certainly made his intentions public over the past 12 months that he was indeed ready to succeed Du Plessis on a permanent basis. And even though Smith and the rest of the Proteas brainstrust, which includes coach Mark Boucher and convenor of selectors Victor Mpitsang, felt in their infinite wisdom that burdening Quinton de Kock with the Test captaincy for the recent Sri Lanka and Pakistan series was a smart idea, they at least now have the right man. And Elgar is certainly up for the task.
"I know it's definitely a tough position as a player. It is a massive responsibility. But saying that, that was a good couple of years ago. I have played quite a few games since then and learnt alot about what Test cricket is and how a team operates behind the scenes. I know it's going to be an Almighty challenge and an exciting challenge," he said.
Furthermore, he wants to focus on trying to stabilize a team that has in a constant flux due to the retirements of senior players and change of coaches.
"It is not an ideal situation that we have had over the last season or two. I think going forward at least we know that I have the job for two years and we can build on that," Elgar said.
"I think the Proteas brand and the potential players deserve that opportunity to have someone come in and give them a bit more clarity and a bit more assurance and stability going forward."