SA cricket – Dean Elgar braces for ‘tough’ South Africa captaincy tenure


He’s the country’s third Test captain in as many seasons, and his main task is to rebuild the team

Dean Elgar will be South Africa’s third Test captain in as many seasons but his task is the same as the pair that have gone before him: to rebuild the South African team.

Faf du Plessis had to do it in 2016, when AB de Villiers went on sabbatical, and injuries kept Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel out of significant parts of the season. Quinton de Kock had to do it in 2020-21, amid administrative turmoil, a pandemic and a team for whom losing had become a habit. They both had some impact – du Plessis won home and away series against Australia and de Kock oversaw South Africa’s first series win in two years – but they also both had enough of leading.

du Plessis gave up the role after a dip in form during a period of racial tension last season while de Kock has been relieved of the job after a tough Test series, personally and collectively, in Pakistan. In both cases, it was obvious that captaining had become a had-to-do, not a want-to-do, often prefaced by the word reluctant. Elgar, new to the job which is doubtless informing his early perspective, is the opposite. “It’s going to be tough, and something that you have to be willing to do. Otherwise I don’t think you should be put in this position,” he said. “I am fortunate to be put in this position and that the hard work I have put in behind the scenes has been noticed.”

The desire to lead seems to be at least part of the secret of what makes a good captain. For du Plessis, initially, it made him a better batsman but when results went south, retirements mounted up, and rhetoric in the country was polarised, he stood down. For de Kock, the extra responsibility coupled with the restrictions of living in biosecure environments, always appeared too much. His form suffered, his on-field decisions were iffy, and he appeared out of his depth in interactions with the media.