South African skipper Dean Elgar said that the DRS controversy offered them a “window” to have a go at the target, with the Virat Kohli-led Indian team getting distracted by their on-field chatter during the series-deciding third Test.
The left-handed opener’s LBW decision by umpire Marais Erasmus was overturned after HawkEye showed the ball trajectory going over the stumps. It led to tempers fraying in the Indian camp, with skipper Kohli, along with his deputy KL Rahul and senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, mocking the South African broadcasters SuperSport on stump microphone.
Chasing 212 in tough Newlands’ conditions, South Africa were 60 for one in the 21st over when Elgar got the reprieve but, with the Indian camp busy with the DRS controversy, the hosts went on to score 40 runs in the next eight overs.
“That obviously gave us a little bit of a window period, especially yesterday (Thursday) for us to score a little bit freer and obviously, chip away at the deficit that we needed or the target that we needed,” Elgar said, after their series-clinching seven-wicket win here on Friday. “It worked out well in our hands, it played nicely into our hands. For a period of time, they actually forgot about the game and they were challenging a bit more of the emotional side of what Test cricket has to offer,” he added.
Asked about the controversy, Elgar said: “Loved it. It was obviously maybe a team that was under a little bit of pressure and things were not going the way which they obviously were quite used to of late. We were extremely happy. We still had to execute our skills with the bat (on day three and four) knowing that the wicket was playing a bit in the bowler’s favour, and we needed to be extra disciplined out there and execute our basics.”
South Africa had started the series with an embarrassing 113-run defeat in the Boxing Day Test at Centurion, where they had never lost. So Elgar took upon the responsibility to pull the team together with some “hard chats” with his teammates, who responded well.
“Losing the first game of a home Test series is never ideal. I think it’s a South African trait that you always have to start slow and we almost have to be 0-1 down to actually wake up and realise that you know we were up against it and our backs against the wall and the guys responded beautifully to that,” Elgar said.
Asked about the changing room conversations, the Proteas skipper said: “I think that ties into the conversations I had with the team prior to the second game. Guys taking responsibility and valuing their wicket a lot more. A few soft dismissals and lapses of concentration can hinder your series and ultimately that’s what got us the loss in the first game.”
Elgar said he is “very happy that the guys responded well.”
“They responded to fulfil those roles, especially from a batting point of view. We needed guys to stand up from a character point of view, make a bit more of a conscious effort and be a lot more aware of the position that they have within the side, purely to bring the best out of the player. Ultimately bringing the best out of the player will obviously influence the environment… It is a proper squad effort, even the guys who didn’t play stood up in the right occasions for us,” Elgar said.
After losing the first Test, it took a lot of character from South Africa to stage a comeback and Elgar showed the way with an unbeaten 96 to chase down 240 to level the series at Wanderers.
“The momentum is something that we gained from Wanderers. Another thing is confidence especially from our batters’ point of view. We haven’t had a lot of that. But showing the guys that these guys are beatable. They are also human beings. We are human beings playing a bloody tough sport,” Elgar said
“You need to get that confidence within your setup. I would say momentum and confidence is a big thing that we have gained out of the Wanderers victory,” he said about their turnaround.
Leading an unheralded side, short on experience, against the world number one India, many had written off Elgar at the start of the series. But he went about his role quietly to lead a remarkable coming-from-behind series win.
“I think my skin is pretty thick when it comes to on-field matters and matters that value the team in a big way,” Elgar said.
Talking about his learnings as a skipper, Elgar said: “I don’t want to show my emotions too much on camera. So I think from that point of view, it is something that I have actually learned quite quickly.”
“I haven’t had a lot of time to actually sit down and bottle everything up. I think from a captaincy point of view it definitely helped me from being a little bit calmer with regards to not panicking too soon,” Elgar added.
(With inputs from Agencies)