A South African, but still not a South African
“I prefer not getting hit, to be honest, but you have to take the blows. It puts me in a different mindset. It’s like the challenge is a little bit more. I guess only an opening batsman could see it that way”.
Dean Elgar after scoring his eighth Test hundred last year at Kia Oval.
Dean Elgar is a South African opening batsman. But when he bats, he won’t give you the impression of being a South African opening batsman. We, the generation of late 80s and 90s, are habituated to enjoy the attacking flair from a South African opening batter. And why not? Since South Africa returned to international cricket from apartheid in 1991, Andrew Hudson gave each and everyone the impression, the openers from Proteas don’t see-off the new ball, but they attack – be it in Test or 50-over match, they mean business by hitting the ball from the word go.
The legacy of Hudson was carried on pretty successfully by Herschelle Gibbs, Gary Kirsten and Graeme Smith for a brief period. Even the young man Aiden Markram loves to exhibit his attacking flair like his predecessors. But, Elgar is not such an opening batsman who neither has the attacking flair nor the tendency to play his shots even when the conditions are aiding him to do such. His mantra of batting is all about grit.
Elgar has his limitations and when a batsman score runs consistently within his limitations, one needs to agree, he is one of those cricketers ho plays with sheer willpower. Such cricketers are not blessed with the talent of a Jac Kallis or AB de Villiers, but still, they make a way through on the basis of their willpower. Mind you, they end up with a very successful career.
It’s still too early to say how far Elgar would go, but definitely, he is showing signs of a very long and successful career.
Hard nut to crack
Elgar would get it on the body. He would get hit in the face to see stars around him. His white flannels might be bathed with blood. But still, he would shrug off all the pain and blows to face the next delivery. One cannot forget his defiant resistance on a tough track at Wanderers where the Indian bowlers attacked him with pace a bounce on Day 3 – a Jasprit Bumrah delivery, that replays showed had pitched back of a length, hit Elgar under the grille and prompted the umpires to take the players off the field.
Elgar came out to bat on Day 4 on the same deck and exhibited tremendous temperament to carry on along with Hashim Amla and instilled fear among the Indians of a whitewash, but in the end, Virat Kohli laughed the last smile. India avoided the whitewash. Elgar ended up earning accolades for his grit.
He carried on his grit and determination in the ongoing Test series against Australia, where, in the second Test at Port Elizabeth, on second session of Day 2, his attritional batting display against the reverse swing of Mitchell Starc and co let the critics point finger towards him, as, definitely, in places like Australia and South Africa, hanging around is never the way to go. But, Darren Lehman thought otherwise.
“Certainly I thought Elgar and Amla showed our blokes a little bit how to get through that and as we know when your bowlers are starting to bowl 25 overs an innings it is starting to get to be tough work”, Lehmann said. “You make your runs at the back end against quality attacks and that’s what we’ve got to get better at”.
Moreover, if you cannot be like AB, just be yourself. Elgar plays it his way.
“I can’t go out there and play an AB [de Villiers] knock. If you want that you have to look elsewhere because I am not going to be able to do that. I am not going to be able to play a Hashim Amla knock because those are special cricketers,”
“But what I have is potentially something they don’t have. We have guys who can grind it out and we have guys who have the ability to play special knocks. It will be awesome if I was a little bit talented.”
Dean Elgar said in an interview.
Hmm…Elgar is a hard nut to crack type of cricketer.
Elgar bats the Elgar way at Newlands
The dismissals of Markram and Amla mattered nothing when AB de Villiers was milking boundaries. Mitchell Starc kept on bowling straight in the middle stump and AB was quick to respond by creaming those through the midwicket region – an area where he plucked plenty of runs today. Yet another boundary in the same area just halts your regular routine and lets you sit down and enjoy the maestro’s class. AB keeps on batting in his fluent mode, and you forget how time is passing by as you sense, the master is up to something. But, you forget about Elgar – a man who was playing the role of a sheet anchor at the other end.
Elgar was in his typical attritional mood early on, but as time progressed, he also flexed his muscles and targeted the cover region where he scored more runs than his previous Tests. Then he was quick to respond to those deliveries which were bowled onto his pads. According to CicViz, “Aside from a couple of swishes down the leg-side, Dean Elgar’s control has been superb at Newlands. He’s played just 4.2% false shots (global average 14%), and has sapped the energy of the Australian bowlers”.
Elgar’s vigil not only helps to spa way the vigour of a red-hot pace bowler, but at the same time, he contributes a lot in grafting partnerships which make the opposition bowlers and fielders toil hard and run out of idea at times. A captain might manoeuvre the field, but Elgar would grind and test the patience of the opposition.
Steve Smith tried to pepper him with short-pitch stuff, testing lines outside off and test his technique more by engaging Nathan Lyon with an attacking field. Lyon posed a threat, but Elgar decided to use his feet more – when required, he did not bother to come out of the crease and disturb the line and length of Lyon.
Elgar continued to bat. No man has faced more deliveries than him in the past one year or so.
A boundary off Starc brought up his first hundred of this year. It was yet another gritty knock, but a bit different from previous ones as there was a fluency.
Elgar witnessed the end of AB and then in the twinkle of an eye, witnessed Cummins trigger a collapse, but the gritty South African was not in a mood to throw his wicket away. At the end of Day 1, he is not out on 121. He has Kagiso Rabada with him and it would be interesting to see how can he marshall the tail tomorrow.