Dean Elgar: The rock of South Africa Test team

Dean Elgar: The rock of South Africa Test team

Dean Elgar was damage. The ball from Jasprit Bumrah on the third night of final month’s India-South Africa Jo’burg Test had burst by means of the helmet. Even as he tried to take a couple of deep breaths, ideas about Phil Hughes, the Australian batsman who died after copping a blow on his head, entered the thoughts of Louis Klopper, Elgar’s long-time coach.

“I got a real fright,” Pierre, Louis’ son and Elgar’s buddy says. WhatsApp messages can be exchanged that night. All Elgar would say was “I am fine”, the identical textual content that he despatched to his father Richard that night. “Typical Dean,” Richard laughs. “No fuss. I didn’t even call him that evening; just a WhatsApp text and all he says is he is fine. He has always been like that: tough nut.”

Elgar performed two nice knocks within the Test sequence: 61 within the second innings of the second Test on a pitch that appeared extra Nagpur than Centurion, and an unbeaten 86 on the grassy knoll on the Wanderers within the third Test. The first, compiled over 45 overs of batting, helped South Africa win the sequence, and the second, the boy-on-burning-deck knock, almost dragged them to a whitewash. You would assume that this dogged bullfighter of a gap batsman, who has even captained South Africa as soon as and piled so many runs within the final 12 months that he made it to ICC’s World XI, can be a well-loved and revered determine amongst South African cricket followers. But the fact is one thing else.

“In my past, I haven’t been given a lot of credit for what I have done. I don’t think there is a big relationship between me and South African cricket fans. A lot of time, what I have done has been brushed under the carpet. People forget that you need cricketers like me in every team,” Elgar tells The Indian Express. “I feel myself and Pooji (Cheteshwar Pujara) are doubtlessly in the identical boat. We are very comparable players. He additionally, I reckon, could make batting look ugly at instances however he’s actually efficient and could also be again residence he isn’t actually cherished as a lot because the others. Because he isn’t seen as somebody who hits each ball for 4.

“I’ve discovered a method of coping with the reactions, and making a vibe round myself. Because I don’t play within the IPL. IPL players get much more credit score and so be it. They deserve it. So I’m not a giant particular person to essentially let go and take pleasure in individuals kissing my arse for doing one thing what I’m speculated to do!”

A prolonged chat with Elgar, and conversations with individuals near him, give the sensation that he’s somebody who might be arduous on himself. Someone out to show some extent to the world, and to himself. Elgar doesn’t disagree when that notion is put throughout.

“I think it’s both. You are trying to prove a point to people, and also fighting your own battle. You need to develop a system that helps you to get better. Each guy deals with it in his own way: whether to prove a point to others or to yourself. I try to think of what my team needs me to do, not fuss about myself, and the rest looks after itself.”

No one questions Elgar’s spirit and worth to the team, although. In 2014, through the Test sequence towards Australia, Morne Morkel had captured Elgar’s character to the world: “He’s a staffie”. It’s quick for Staffordshire terrier, and it’s essentially the most apt adjective to choose for Elgar’s bulldog spirit.

Telford Vice, a South African cricket author, nails the character for us: “He is interesting – always grumpy, never wastes an opportunity to get into an argument, about absolutely anything.”

It isn’t a sentiment that’s essentially shared by his household, coach, and pals – and we are going to come to their views shortly, however nobody disputes his innate stubbornness. “If he sets his mind to something, he does it,” is their frequent chorus.

***

An early glimpse of that stubbornness got here to fore when Elgar was 14. He wasn’t all that eager on teachers and someday, his English trainer requested him in entrance of the category: Do you assume you possibly can earn cash from cricket? “Yes, of course. I will one day earn money from cricket. I will be a professional sportsman for South Africa”.

It wasn’t an empty boast. Elgar, who was a much more free-flowing batsman in these days earlier than he matured and knuckled right down to the calls for of being a Test opener, was rated extremely by his coaches. When he was simply 9 or 10, his coach Louis, who was additionally his principal in school, remembers sharing his views with Elgar’s dad Richard. “I told him, one day Dean is going to play for South Africa, and he will play at Lord’s. When that happens, you and I will go down to watch him.”

Fast ahead to some years, and Richard and Pierre would discover themselves on the Lord’s pitch for a photograph after the match, the place Elgar by the way led South Africa within the absence of Faf du Plessis. Richard felt proud, Louis was emotional, and Elgar slotted it as one of the “top two moments” of his profession. The different one was his debut.

Not that it was an awesome debut for him personally. He discovered himself dealing with a ferocious Mitchell Johnson, and collected a pair of geese. “When Dean came in to bat, Johnson just revved up a gear and had a full go, bowling at his body. It broke my heart to see him get two ducks. I knew that he would fight and make me proud,” his coach says.

When Elgar was about to take the sector, Allan Donald, the bowling coach then, entrusted him with a job.

“Allan pulled me aside, and said it’s my responsibility to keep the energy going, and I need to get stuck into (Michael) Clarke when he comes to bat. Allan said,’ Clarke would absolutely hate that a guy playing his first Test, and who has had a pair, is giving him the lip’. It worked out perfectly for us, it didn’t take us too long to get him out.”

“You are a cocky piece of shit,” Elgar recollects Clarke telling him on the finish of that recreation. Said with a smile, the evaluation was meant as a praise. During the sport, Elgar was the person beneath the helmet at short-leg, and had obtained caught into Clarke. “How does it feel to be the Australian captain who is set to lose another series to South Africa, and at home?” More such snubs and verbal stabs have been made, and Clarke wasn’t amused. At the tip of all of it, although, Elgar recollects Clarke acknowledging his effort at psychological disintegration. “He said, ‘That was fair play. I didn’t expect a guy who scored two ducks to come after me in such style but it was fair play.’ The respect factor was obviously there — he was an amazing player and he could sense that I respected that after the game, and that I was just doing my job to keep the energy levels up on the field.”

Elgar has at all times ended up riling opponents, one thing R Ashwin would testify to. During the 2015 residence sequence towards South Africa, Ashwin was the tormentor-in-chief, and had a number of verbal battles with Elgar. Unhappy with Elgar’s criticism of the Nagpur pitch through the recreation, Ashwin had despatched him off the sector after dismissing him: “That’s a bad shot, not a bad pitch. This is not Jo’burg, you can’t slog sweep here”.

Elgar chuckles when it’s introduced up. “Oh yes, I remember him saying all that. That series didn’t go well for me. I had high expectations from myself .” Coach Louis Klopper recollects one shot specifically from that Indian tour: A reverse sweep.

“I used to always tell him – You reverse sweep only after you get a hundred. But he played one shot there and later told me that he thought of me straightaway — that he shouldn’t have played it!”

Richard remembers his son getting back from the journey, and the person who often doesn’t discuss a lot about his recreation telling him, “I need to do something about it”.

In Richard’s thoughts, Elgar wasn’t ready for the Indian situations. “He was caught with his pants down. He wasn’t ready for that kind of big spinning pitches. When he came back, he said to me that he has to do something about it. He has now found a way.”

***

Elgar’s method hasn’t at all times been enticing. It’s apt right here to cite England batsman Nick Compton’s dialog with Gary Kirsten. “I’ll never forget one particular day,” Compton wrote. “First he asked me: ‘Compo – how do you define playing well?’ I answered confidently: ‘Timing the ball well, feeling at ease and dominating’. His response astonished me. ‘Really? Well, do you want to know what playing well is for me? It’s about scoring runs irrelevant of how well or badly it comes off the bat’.”

dean elgar

Elgar would agree. When he resumed batting on the 4th day on the Wanderers, the morning after he was left bruised, the morning after he had texted his dad that he was nice, he knew he was in for one more searing check. Those who know him nicely, weren’t that anxious. His coach recollects telling his son that “Dean would get a hundred today”.

The father was equally assured that his son would “fight back because that’s what he does best”.

His batting that day stays a blur in Elgar’s thoughts. What stays in his thoughts is the time spent batting with Hashim Amla, the jokes they shared, and the urge to struggle he felt inside him.

“You had to put mind over matter. As nasty as it looked, (the Bumrah incident), it was part of the game. You just have to knuckle down and you have a job to do. Message is sent from the captain and coach that we have to shake off what happened, and try to win. As proud South Africans, we had to do it. And we realised, as the play progressed next day, that the wicket was actually playing better. It settled my mind.”

It was with the exit of Quinton de Kock that he felt that the Test was slipping away. “You can’t expect the bowlers to come and get 60-70 runs.”

Elgar has nice respect for the best way Virat Kohli led India, and how the team responded to the sequence loss by successful that final Test. “It was one of the toughest Test series we have had in South Africa. The way they adapted during the series, especially their bowlers who seemed to grow every game they played. The competitive spirit is driven by Virat. He is very competitive, and we can see that he is trying to change the culture there. They didn’t just want to play the series but wanted to win. That was awesome.”

***

Elgar is obsessive about successful. His buddy Pierre – who by the way is now the cricket and hockey coach at St Dominic’s College, Elgar’s alma mater – shares what sports activities means to the 30-year previous opening batsman.

“When he was eight, he would come to our house to play garden cricket. Me and his brother are older than him, and he would get really angry that he couldn’t get us out!” Pierre laughs. “Even now, when we play golf, he isn’t a happy loser – always wants to hammer me, and win.”

Pierre shares an incident when Elgar was 14 that modified his outlook to the sport. “He had at all times performed with older guys, and most likely that has actually helped within the making of him as a tricky nut. You should develop up shortly if you end up enjoying with adults. You can’t sulk round, or take it straightforward.

“I keep in mind his first 12 months with the U-19s, he was most likely 14, and his coach Russell Domingo had referred to as him out for his additional weight.”

Elgar recollects that he had give up enjoying squash within the winter resulting from an harm, and had placed on a bit of weight because of this. Pierre says he got here again from the camp, and misplaced 20 kilos very quickly.

“He worked on himself like a maniac. If I had any doubt about his career, it ended in that phase.”

The father has a humorous reminiscence hooked up to that section. “Well, he was eating a lot of rubbish. He was fond of McDonald’s burgers. After his coach’s warning, he quit!”

Elgar’s angle to successful is formed by the truth that a sportsman will lose much more than win in his profession. “You fail so many times in sport – the failure and achievement ratio is so different that you need to get over losses as quickly as possible. I have failed many many times before, and how you bounce back is all that matters. Bear in mind, you might have another game in 2-3 days. You need to put away what has happened and carry on. I have played 12 years of professional cricket and have failed a lot more than succeeded.”

As the chat rolls on, he talks about how the general public view him, and how he incorporates that issue by constructing a bubble round him. It then hits you that he’s fairly arduous on himself. And when it’s put throughout to him, he reiterates that feeling.

“You need to be (hard on yourself), I think. If you fail and you don’t care or aren’t hard on yourself, you are playing the game for wrong reasons. The media criticise a lot these days but the one criticism that you need to really take seriously is your criticism.”

The household and shut pals couldn’t be prouder or happier about the best way Elgar has lived his life. “Under all that tough-nut exterior, he is quite an emotional man,” says his coach. “He surprised me on my 60th birthday by not only visiting me but also presenting me with a South Africa T-shirt. He has always treated me with respect – he has been a gentleman. He has a bit of white-line fever when he gets on to the cricket ground.”

His buddy Pierre talks about Elgar off-the-field: “He is quite a chilled-out guy, someone with a dry sense of humour, and who likes his braai.”

A 12 months stuffed with runs has absolutely made Elgar really feel that he owns his spot within the team. But has it mellowed the person they name the Staffie?

“The moment I believe that I have done it, and it’s my position for the taking, that’s the danger area for me. I must always try to better myself, and tell myself that I need to still keep getting better. That’s who I am. You can’t worry about what other people say about you: I tend to think how my team views me, what they want from me, and the rest takes care of itself.”

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