Proteas captain Dean Elgar says his players have turned a stream of “bad news” about the country’s cricket into an advantage by forming a strong bond within their dressing room.
The 34-year-old leads his team into the first Test against India on Sunday against a backdrop of administrative instability, accusations of racism and the loss of key strike bowler Anrich Nortje.
“We’ve kind of gotten used to some bad news around us, the last year, year-and-a-half,” Elgar told a press conference. “As a players group, we adapt to it accordingly.
“It’s not ideal to have these headlines coming up, we just want to focus on our cricket, playing a really tough series against India.”
Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced on Monday that director of cricket Graeme Smith and Proteas head coach Mark Boucher will face formal hearings into claims of racial discrimination.
CSA also said that the three-match Test series and the ODI series which follows will be played behind closed doors because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“What happens off the field is irrelevant now,” said Elgar who did not refer directly to the CSA announcement about Smith and Boucher.
“We’ve been through such bad times that we’ve formulated such a good bond within our group.
“Our culture has been tested and pushed to levels that I didn’t think it could be pushed to in my short term as captain.
“We’ve had so many different administrators, we don’t even know who’s there now.”
Elgar, however, who was appointed as full-time Test captain in March, offered a ringing endorsement of the coaching staff in general.
“We back our coaches, we back our management. They put in so much work that goes unnoticed. I know what they do behind the scenes.
“It’s not nice to see our coaches lambasted. We’re extremely grateful for the hard work they put in.”
Elgar twice described India as “the best team in the world” but said the South African team had put in three good days of preparation.
With the majority of the likely starting team having played little or no red-ball cricket this season, Elgar said the preparation had included match simulation, “which has been pretty productive”.
Elgar acknowledged that India had a much-improved fast bowling line-up but said he backed his own bowlers, even without Nortje who has been ruled out of the three-match series because of a hip injury, in home conditions.
“We know that it’s going to be tough but we know that it’s going to be tough for the Indian batters to face our bowlers.
“I’d rather be sitting here knowing that than sitting in the Indian dressing room knowing they have to face our fast bowlers.”
Elgar said he expected a “good cricket wicket” at Centurion which would enable batsmen to score runs if they applied themselves, while offering assistance to bowlers with pace and bounce.
©️ Agence France-Presse