On Friday (December 22), former South African skipper Dean Elgar surprised the world by announcing his retirement from international cricket following the conclusion of the India Test series. Elgar has represented the Proteas in 86 Tests, with 5146 runs, including 13 centuries and 23 half-centuries, being a pillar of the Proteas batting unit.
While the decision took many aback, South Africa’s red-ball coach, Shukri Conrad, stated that the ‘lack of Test cricket’ is partly responsible for Elgar’s retirement from the longest format.
"The fact that we haven't got much Test cricket is part of the reason we arrived at the decision we arrived at," Conrad said in Centurion, where South Africa will take on India from Boxing Day.
"Ideally, we would like to play more Test cricket because the more Test cricket we play, the more opportunity we've got to blood cricketers for the future. If we have fewer Tests, that means I've got very little opportunity to blood young cricketers. Sometimes we arrive at decisions like Dean's now because of a lack of cricket and a lack of opportunity to blood young players."
While Elgar’s career might not have taken off most smoothly, with a pair on Test debut, his captaincy saw the Proteas make a comeback in the series win over India last time the Men in Blue were in the country. He is one of the most experienced batters in this red-ball setup, and Conrad pointed out that the southpaw epitomises the South African cricketing culture.
"Dean epitomises what a South African cricketer and almost what a South African person is about: resilience, dog fight, pride in performance and that ability to never back down," Conrad said.
"Those are all the elements that Dean has brought to his extensive international and first-class career and to all the sides he has played in. Hopefully if some of the young bucks that are going to be stepping up into those big shoes, half of the characteristics and the qualities that Dean had, then we will be in a good space."
With Elgar not leading the side anymore, it was a decision that didn’t come as a surprise for the head coach Conrad, who insisted that the Proteas were thrilled to have the experienced batter available for the two-match Test series against India.
"The conversation and the decision and the outcomes have been exactly how Dean and I discussed it. It is absolutely no surprise to me that we are at the place where Dean has decided to retire against India. I am very comfortable and thrilled to have Dean available for this series. It's a massive series for us as a team. It's a huge series for Dean. And It is going to be quite an emotional one. Hopefully we can give him the perfect send-off as well."
South Africa will have both Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi available for the two-match Test series, both fresh off breaks. With no update on Anrich Nortje, who has missed the majority of action over the last two years, the duo will spearhead the relatively inexperienced bowling unit, with Marco Jansen’s point of difference being the X-factor.
"I've always been a firm believer in best when fresh," he said. "They'll be fresh, they'll be firing. It's like riding a bicycle for a lot of them. The ideal would have been for them to get some mileage in the legs in the four-day game. But life happens. We've got to find a way from there. I am not in the least bit concerned that they will be undercooked in any way. Both KG and Lungi are still in the squad and up for selection."