JOHANNESBURG – Far fewer demands (from the media in particular), the fact he is playing at home and that the series has already been won has made Dean Elgar’s second experience of being the Proteas’ stand-in skipper a far more relaxed one.
The first time was something of an ordeal. It was an immensely proud moment for Elgar at Lord’s in 2017 to be sure, but it was hectic too.
It was a series opener against England, it was Lord’s and the South African team he was asked to lead had been stitched together.
Besides Faf du Plessis, absent for that match while his wife was giving birth, there was also no Dale Steyn, and a couple of senior players were carrying poor form.
“The whole experience in England was a lot more chaotic,” Elgar reflected on Thursday ahead of the third and final Test against Pakistan at the Wanderers.
At Lord’s, Elgar had to do a radio interview and a separate TV engagement, before conducting the formal press conference with a far larger media delegation than was present at the Wanderers on Thursday.
Then he had to pose with two trophies in front of a six-foot zebra alongside Joe Root.
“I remember running around all over the show at Lord’s, then doing the presser with a lot more reporters, and that was quite intimidating. I’ve learned a lot from those experiences,” Elgar said on Thursday.
Just one TV interview and an 11-minute press conference were all the demands he faced after training on Thursday morning.
“This time around, it’s a little less stressed due to the nature of the series and the venue. This time I really want to take it in. I’m not sure when I’ll do this again, so I want to really enjoy the experience.”
A different outcome to the Lord’s one would add to that enjoyment, and Elgar has stressed that with the squad this week.
“We’ve got the series in the bag. There is still a massive goal for us – to drive home that final nail, which we deserve to do. We’ve played good cricket in this series.
“That was the big message I gave the squad (Wednesday); even though we’ve got the series in the bag, we’ve been in a similar position before and let it slip against India – which hurt a lot – and hopefully we’ve learned from that.
“I was blunt and straightforward with the squad – if there is any complacency within our camp, we need to iron that crease out right now.
"I'm going to try and not lose." - SA stand-in captain Dean Elgar about how he wants to make the experience of leading the Proteas different this week from the last time he did the job. pic.twitter.com/f1CyaGc0tt— stuart hess (@shockerhess) January 10, 2019
“We have a massive goal, and that is to win here 3-0 and win the summer 5-0 (in the two Tests against Sri Lanka), and being at home is a massive advantage for us.”
Since losing to England in 2016, South Africa have won six series in a row on home soil, with last summer’s pair of triumphs against India and Australia the highlights.
The Proteas swept the series 3-0 the last time Pakistan toured here in 2013, although Elgar remains wary that the tourists are still keen to prove a point.
“They’ve played good cricket, they’ve been hurt a bit in this series, but we are never going to give the opposition anything on a plate.
“I’m sure they will come back they will have some huff and puff, especially for the first day. But if we stick to the game plans, we will blow them out of the water.”
The South Africans will in all likelihood stick with the four-pronged pace attack that did duty at Newlands, although when the suspended Faf du Plessis arrived at the ground ahead of training on Thursday and inspected the pitch, there was talk about its dryness and thus the possible inclusion of spinner Keshav Maharaj in the starting team.
“To win... in the conditions at Wanderers, which does assist the seamers, which has been our strength so far in the series, to change that is going to be a very big call. I would hate facing another 140k bowler who wants to hit your head off,” Elgar stated.
The weather for the first three days of the Test is set fair, while the pitch according to Elgar looked a good one, that would offer a fairer battle between bat and ball than was the case at SuperSport Park and Newlands.
This may be a game that goes into a fifth day. Play starts at 10am on Friday.
* Opener Aiden Markram, who bruised his right thigh in the second Test, was declared fit to start after coming through a fitness test on Thursday. Zubayr Hamza will make his debut in place of Du Plessis, and is likely to bat at No 5.
Squads For Wanderers
South Africa: Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar (captain), Zubayr Hamza, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn.
Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfaraz Ahmad (captain), Mohammad Rizwan, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Hassan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi.@shockerhess