New Test captain wants team to play “more and better cricket” as they rebuild their red-ball game
Elgar has been given the job for the next two years, effectively the next World Test Championship cycle, and knows he has a massive job on his hands. “Now that we are in a new chapter, we need to play more cricket and better cricket,” he said on Saturday, ahead of the team’s departure to St Lucia via Paris. “We are conscious that over the last period we haven’t been very consistent. Our skill level hasn’t been where it should be. We need to get back to a bit more of a consistent nature of cricket; a bit more of a South African way.”
Which is what, exactly?
“We’ve always had a batting line-up that has scored heavily. And fast bowlers. That’s the South African way,” Elgar said. “We need to get back to scoring big hundreds and taking five-fors like it used to be.”
“One of the more challenging aspects of the job will be to try and get the trust of the players so that they can trust the process, to believe in the process and to do it quickly and adapt quickly.”
South Africa’s century scarcity has causes ranging from lack of confidence to tough conditions but ultimately, it has raised questions about whether they have the correct personnel in place to bat big. This West Indies tour will test that. While Elgar and Markram are proven performers, the series is an opportunity for new vice-captain Temba Bavuma, with only one Test hundred in five years to his name, to step up, for Rassie van der Dussen to add to his first international century that came in an ODI in April and for Quinton de Kock to show he has recovered from the failed captaincy experiment. It is also a chance for new middle-order batter to be blooded following du Plessis’ retirement.
Petersen has been in and around the set-up since he topped the first-class run charts in the 2018-19 summer, where he averaged 60.88. He was mentored by then-batting consultant Jacques Kallis in the 2019-20 season and was part of the squad that traveled to Pakistan. He is likely to get the nod ahead of Kyle Verreynne, who was third in last season’s first-class competition and is one of the other reserve batters in the group.
That was when South Africa beat Australia and it’s fair to say, it’s been mostly downhill since. It’s up to Elgar to try and reverse the team’s direction and he will start by working on their mental states. “It’s trying to change players’ mindsets; to try and get that buy-in from every individual and to try and get them to trust your process going forward,” he said. “One of the more challenging aspects of the job will be to try and get the trust of the players so that they can trust the process, to believe in the process and to do it quickly and adapt quickly. It’s something I believe very strongly in.”
Elgar’s era begins with the first Test on June 10. South Africa leave the country on Monday and will serve a three-day quarantine on arrival in St Lucia. Provided they return two negative Covid-19 tests, they will be allowed to train from the fourth day but will remain limited to their rooms and will be able to make use of all the hotel’s facilities after seven days.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent