Dean Elgar’s battling century against the Cobras made a big statement about his readiness to become the next Proteas Test captain, writes RYAN VREDE.
It is early days in the domestic 4-Day series, and South Africa isn’t scheduled to play Test cricket until late December, but Elgar made a strong statement in the context of the Test captaincy.
His 101 in Cape Town came in a team total of 150. While everyone around him crumbled, Elgar was resolute and determined. This type of resilience has defined his career. It is just one marker of a strong leader, certainly. But it is a major one and one Elgar has exhibited with great consistency.
I write about this aspect of his character as being defining because the pool of potential Test-captain candidates – Temba Bavuma, Keshav Maharaj and Aiden Markram the most likely of those – isn’t blessed with men who embody a broad range of leadership qualities.
By this I mean that none of them are a Graeme Smith or Faf du Plessis, who supplemented their immense talent with consistent performances, high levels of charisma, temperament, tactical IQ and emotional intelligence. These attributes combined shaped the public perception of them as ‘natural’ leaders and earned them the public trust for the majority of their tenure.
None of those being spoken about as Du Plessis’ successor possess these qualities in the same measure, making it likely that the next Proteas skipper will be selected on an attribute like resilience, the type that allows his talent to soar in the midst of the most testing circumstances. This is where Elgar excels.
He is ahead of the chasing pack.
There have been lots of comparisons between Smith and Markram but those are unfounded. Markram was a young leader with plenty of potential, having won the U19 World Cup in 2014. But he never pressured the franchise selectors in the manner Smith did in his early 20s and, once there, never matched the early consistency that made Smith’s stay at franchise level relatively short-lived.
Such was Smith’s broad range of leadership qualities that he – aged 22 – became the youngest Test captain in South African cricket history. Markram’s growth curve doesn’t stand up in comparison. He isn’t even a certain pick and is battling to refine technical and mental aspects of his game at an age when Smith was already an established Test star.
This is not to say that Markram won’t get there. Players mature at different speeds and Markram may well figure it all out in the next couple of months. But, as it stands, he isn’t there yet. Neither is Bavuma nor Maharaj.
The outside bet, Rassie van der Dussen, is still in the infancy of his Test career, and although he has made a solid start, scoring three 50s in eight innings, he is by no means shooting the lights out.
It is against this background that Elgar’s case is strengthened. It is early days as yet, but with his one-man resistance in Cape Town, Elgar has set himself apart for a job that relies on tons of what he has.