Dean Elgar underlined his value as a captain who not only leads from the front but demands the best from his players as he led South Africa to a remarkable seven-wicket win over India at the Wanderers on Thursday.
Elgar’s pride, bravery and determination were on full public display for over five hours in the second innings as his great innings of 96 not out ushered the Proteas to their target of 240 on a rapidly deteriorating pitch, the sixth highest run-chase in South Africa’s Test history, and coming against an attack many consider to be the best in the world.
But what was not revealed until after the game was Elgar’s courage in confronting his players, even someone like Kagiso Rabada, South Africa’s one unarguably world-class performer and almost akin to royal game in these sensitive days when the national coach is in the firing line for saying the wrong things when he was a player.
Elgar pressed his premier strike bowler’s buttons when he told him his performance was not up to scratch. Rabada might not have been enraged, but he responded with a rampant burst of three wickets in three overs on the third day that brought South Africa roaring back into the game.
“I don’t play for personal accolades; it’s always team over my own performance for me,” said Elgar after his match-winning innings. “But, it does feel nice to contribute in a big way.
“My goal is always to influence the environment and lead from the front. It makes it easier then for the others in the changeroom to trust what you’re saying. It was more tough love than a rocket when I went to KG.
“I told him that he is immensely respected but he was not conducting himself very well in terms of performance – he’s an incredible bowler when his tail is up. And he responds well to those chats, he goes away and thinks about it.
“He under sells his value in the team a bit, maybe he’s a bit too relaxed, but his contribution to the team is huge. The whole side was pushed to different levels and they responded brilliantly to certain requests I made,” Elgar said.
The captain himself may not be one of the most dazzling or entertaining of batsmen, but he is certainly among the most trustworthy in the game when it comes to digging in and putting his body on the line.
“Firstly it’s a win and foremost, the team has fought long and hard for this sort of victory,” Elgar said.
“I wasn’t looking at the end result today, but I said to myself that I had to be there at the finish as a senior batsman and the captain.”