JOHANNESBURG - Like a scene from a "buddy film" Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram will ride together to Potchefstroom on Tuesday morning.
Martin Lawrence and Will Smith developed "we ride together, we die together," as a slogan for their Bad Boys movies and Elgar and Markram, while maybe not has hip, want to form a similar bond that will see them score runs together for a long time.
Elgar, wants it that way, and the Proteas Test team, desperately needs it that way. For too long South Africa have struggled to settle on an opening combination. Since Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen’s retirement, Elgar has been a mainstay at the top of the order. Smith and Petersen are two of seven different opening partners Elgar has had over the course of his career, but the other five - Stiaan van Zyl, Temba Bavuma, Stephen Cook, Theunis de Bruyn and Heino Kuhn - have all been selected at some stage in the last two years.
It’s no surprise then that he has developed an answer for how all the changes have affected him, and its not a good reflection of the national selectors nor the players who have been picked to partner him at the top of the order.
“I think it’s unfair for a batting unit to be settled, if your openers are unsettled. Your core with regards to a batting collective is the opening pair. They set it up for the rest to play, naturally. We need some stability and we need some consistency,” Elgar explained.
There’s a strong argument that the selectors acted hastily in axing Cook, who’d scored three centuries in 11 Tests against attacks featuring some of the best fast bowlers.
The selectors have now thrown their lot in with 22-year-old Markram and are almost forced to back him throughout this summer, which includes challenging series against India and Australia. “I’m extremely excited for Aiden. He’s proven over the last couple of seasons that he is a really special player,” said Elgar.
Last week the pair shared an opening stand of 184 for the Titans in the second innings of their opening Sunfoil Series match against the Dolphins at SuperSport Park. Both made hundreds in that match. “Hopefully we can have some longevity, we need that stability and some kind of consistency with regards (to) the opening combination. Hopefully we can have a few series and a few seasons together,” Elgar said.
Many eyes will be fixed on Markram when the first Test against Bangladesh starts in Potchefstroom on Thursday. Nevermind just the opening spot, but in the long-term Markram is expected to potentially take over the captaincy reigns in future too. There’s an enormous amount of expectation regarding Markram's future at the top of the game in South Africa and Elgar admits part of their road-tripping talks on Tuesday will be about keeping things as simple as possible.
“He went from being Titans captain to Test opener in a week. He’s a highly-special cricketer and a gifted player. He mustn’t forget that,” said Elgar.
“Test cricket can cloud your thoughts - because of who you are and who you’re playing for... the occasion with cameras around, you can get sidetracked. I guess it’s my job to ease his mind and make him feel welcome.”