“It was maybe a team under a bit of pressure and things weren’t going their way, which they are quite used to of late”
Elgar was the batter who survived a review late on the third day when he was given out lbw off R Ashwin by Marais Erasmus to a delivery that drifted in from around the stumps and struck in front of middle stump, below the knee roll.
Elgar sent the decision upstairs and ball-tracking showed the ball would have gone over the stumps. India went on to question the decision vocally on-field as well as insinuate the host broadcasters were biased in favour of the home team, but only dismissed Elgar nine overs later, at the close of play. By that stage, Elgar and Rassie van der Dussen had put on 41 runs, at a scoring rate of 4.5 and brought the target down to 111 on the final day.
Asked what he thought of India’s chatter, Elgar said that he “loved it” because of the advantage it gave South Africa. “It was maybe a team under a bit of pressure and things weren’t going their way, which they are quite used to of late [getting things to go their way],” he said. “It was a bit of Test match cricket pressure which gave us a little bit of a window period to score freer and chip away at the target. It played nicely into our hands that for a period of time, they forgot about the game and they were channelling a bit more of the emotional side of what Test cricket has to offer. I am extremely happy it happened that way.”
“You’ve got to have mutual respect with every individual player and that’s a two-way street. That enables you to have the conversations we’ve had in the last few weeks,” he said. The players need to understand that I am not there to manipulate them. I’m not there to try and do their career injustice because I need them to operate at a level that is respectable at this level of Test cricket. If you want to be the best, you need to operate at a level like what we have done over the last few weeks but you need to be pretty consistent around that. I’d like to think I’ve got a pretty good relationship with everyone – from the oldest player to the youngest player. I’d like to think I connect with them in a pretty good way; a special way. The guys know Dean is doing this for the right reasons.”
Exactly what all those discussions are about, we will never know as Elgar said he is “not going to reveal everything because what happens in the team stays in the team”, but essentially his mantra is around putting the collective first.
“We all want to influence things in our own way but the team’s way is the only way going forward. It sounds a little bit harsh but if you want to be the best, you need to have that skill, which is a unique skill. I would like to think I am not offending anyone by the language I use or the words I speak. I am there to motivate and influence this group.”
Elgar does not immediately come across as a player who controls things so carefully behind the scenes. For most of his now-decade-long international career, he was not seen as a natural leader and even now that he has taken over the captaincy, he does not play to the gallery like his opposite number, Kohli. But that’s intentional.
“My skin is pretty thick when it comes to on-field matters and matters that value the team in a big way. Now, being a lot more experienced, I’ve gained the kind of people skills that I lacked. I’d like to think it’s something I am still going to work on and grow as a human. The pressure situations are tough. Especially when you don’t have a bat in hand.
“You can’t control anything that’s happening out there. That’s something I kind of manage pretty well. You don’t want to show your emotions on camera. From that point of view, it’s something I have learnt a lot and I’ve had to learn it quite quickly. From a captaincy point of view, it’s helped me be calmer and not panicking too soon.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent