“I am a small guy in stature but a big guy when it comes to standing up and being the representer”
And he has decided on the latter. “I like to think I have taken it to my heart,” he said. “I am not a ‘me’ guy; I am a ‘we’ guy. For me, it’s about the team.”
“It’s something I’ve always thought I have been born with. I have always been a leader, at school, club cricket through franchise cricket. I always like to think I’ve led from the front,” he said. “I am a small guy in stature but a big guy when it comes to standing up and being the representer. It’s a massive honour. I don’t shy away from that responsibility, and I don’t shy away from saying that.”
One of the first questions Elgar was asked as the team geared up to take on West Indies was whether South Africa would join their hosts in taking a knee to show solidarity with the anti-racist cause, a potentially prickly subject because South Africa had not done so as a national team before. Others who have been asked the same over the last year have been defensive and, on one occasion, even stopped from engaging from the topic, but Elgar welcomed it.
He thanked the reporter who made the inquiry and had an answer prepared. After a year of soul-searching South Africa had decided to give their players a choice of taking a knee, raising a fist or standing to attention. Most of the squad took a knee, Elgar and a few others, chose the middle option, and two players stood. In a country where the schisms and scars of racial discrimination are fresh, all of them are likely to be criticised in some way and while it won’t be easy, Elgar was made to deal with that. He is known for having a thick skin, an essential for an opening batter, and he seems to be demanding the same of his team-mates.
“Kesh is a massive player for the Proteas. What he does goes so unnoticed. He needs to get more respect,” Elgar said. “He got a Test five-for on a wicket that wasn’t turning against West Indies, away from home. That’s huge. He is a big player. He is going to become a better player going forward. He is not going to stop there. He doesn’t sound like being second best.”
South Africa do not have any Tests scheduled for the rest of the year but are expecting to host India over the festive season. Between now and then, their focus will shift to the shortest format, which Elgar is not part of. So he will return home, to rest, to play in the revamped domestic set-up once the summer starts, and to reflect and reformulate plans to ensure South Africa do not slip up when they return to the Test area.
“It’s a good time to analyse and reset and find ways to improve so you can become better. December is far away but it’s not too far away,” he said. “Against India, it’s going to be extremely tough. This period is going to be good for me to dissect and analyse.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent