Elgar was a somewhat reluctant captain in those two matches; the first in 2017 at Lord’s when Faf du Plessis was at his wife Imarie’s side for the birth of the couple’s first child, and the second time in January last year against Pakistan at the Wanderers, when Du Plessis was suspended. South Africa lost at Lord’s but won in Johannesburg.
Now as the national team continues through its transition under new coach Mark Boucher, Elgar is happy to be considered as captain.
“It’s not an easy journey being Test captain,” Elgar said. “But leadership is something that comes extremely naturally to me. I’ve been captain from school level to provincial level and done it at franchise as well. I really enjoy it. If asked, I will think long and hard about it. It would mean a lot to me. It’s not a job interview, there’s no CV to hand in. You have to respect the people making the decision.”
One of those people will be Boucher, someone with whom Elgar struck up a strong relationship when the former took over as coach at the Titans. They are cut from the same cloth in many respects; straight talkers, hard workers and mentally tough.
Frank discussion is one element Elgar, now very much a senior statesman in the Proteas team, believes some of the younger players could do with hearing.
“Sometimes people don’t like hearing the blunt truth, which is something that maybe lacks around the world at the moment,” Elgar said. “It’s difficult to have hard chats, but you need to trust where it’s coming from, the player or coach who is doing the talking. You don’t need to shout or swear.”
It’s certainly a different environment now to the one Elgar walked into when first picked for the national team in 2012; back then Graeme Smith Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn were at their peak, now they’re not there at all. SA cricket managed the retirements of those greats poorly, and it showed in the results last summer. The Proteas were hammered in India – a difficult tour made even harder by the decision to make the inexperienced Enoch Nkwe interim coach. “He couldn’t set out his (plans) in (such) a short period of time,” Elgar said.
Then, following dramatic administrative change within Cricket SA, Boucher was made coach, with the team winning its first Test under his mentorship against England, before ultimately losing the series 3-1. “After starting well, we struggled to solidify and do the basics for a long period of time,” said Elgar. “It would have been nice to have been more consistent, but those are things we need to work on. We have to do the basics better for a little longer, then ultimately the results will turn in your favour.”
He described his own form last summer as “relatively decent,” which is reflected in his overall numbers in Tests: 476 runs in 14 innings at an average of 36.61 with one hundred and one fifty.