Dean Elgar’s return to South Africa’s ODI squad was long overdue.
More than six years since his last ODI, Elgar has been recalled as injury cover for Hashim Amla and, to an extent, Faf du Plessis.
‘A lot of people write me off when it comes to the white ball. I’m sick and tired of it and I don’t like to have to keep proving myself in limited-overs cricket. I just need clarity on where we are going,’ he said earlier this year.
While the clarity he demanded a few months ago hasn’t yet arrived, Elgar is evidently among Cricket South Africa’s so-called ‘Vision 2019’, which has convenor of selectors Linda Zondi and cohorts testing the bench strength ahead of next year’s World Cup in the United Kingdom.
For October’s series against Zimbabwe, Elgar will be acutely aware of a modest position in the pecking order. He will walk into a batting order minus the services of the injured Amla and Du Plessis, retired AB de Villiers and rested David Miller and Quinton de Kock, but could be resigned to the second or even third tier of preference when the first-choice batsmen return.
Unfortunately, such is the lot of a steely left-handed batsman pigeonholed as a Test cricketer.
Elgar, however, has as many ODI caps as Reeza Hendricks and Khaya Zondo combined, the same number as Heinrich Klaasen – and only four less than Aiden Markram. Granted, the last of his six ODIs came in 2015, and the intermediate format of the international game has progressed significantly since. Zondo, Klaasen and company, meanwhile, have become increasingly familiar with ODI intricacies during 2018’s series against India and Sri Lanka.
While Hendricks and others were battling against the Sri Lankans and Indians, Elgar was succeeding against county bowling attacks akin to the international calibre of Zimbabwe, at least. His Royal London One Day Cup form for Sussex was characterised by three consecutive half-centuries against Essex, Gloucestershire and Hampshire. Two of those fell just short of graduating to three figures.
‘I’ve probably played more white-ball cricket in England than here. I’ve missed two years of domestic one-day cricket in South Africa, so it’s difficult to turn out the numbers and stats that people are looking for. There’s nothing wrong with my technique for one-day cricket,’ insisted Elgar.
The determined opener recently spent significant time in Sussex’s County Championship middle-order, too. This exercise was to afford Englishmen Rory Burns and Mark Stoneman the opportunity to audition for the vacancy left by Alastair Cook’s retirement. The intention also effectively allowed Elgar to bat in positions three and four, which will need occupying in the absence of Amla and du Plessis.
A lot of this, of course, occurred at venues – and in conditions – that will host the Proteas’ 2019 World Cup matches. The recall now, indeed, bodes well for seven months’ time, when Miller or others might be deemed surplus to requirement due to Elgar’s limited-overs resurgence.