Decline of Test cricket in SA ‘deplorable’

Henry

On the eve of his 86th and final Test match, Dean Elgar says he is “sad” that South Africa will send a weakened team to play two Test matches in New Zealand in March.

“The situation we are placed in is not ideal,” Elgar said on Tuesday. The second Test against India begins on Wednesday at Newlands, with Elgar leading the Proteas in his last match before his retirement from international cricket.

Only two of the players who triumphed in last week’s Test against India will travel to New Zealand, the result of a decision by Cricket South Africa to prioritize the lucrative SA20 competition.

“Regardless of what happens behind the scenes, there is still a great hunger (for Test cricket) among the guys who play,” he says.

Elgar says a positive aspect is that it creates an opportunity “for the guys who go to New Zealand to put in good performances and eventually become regular team members”.

However, he soon added that the decision to give preference to the SA20 league over test matches had nothing to do with the players.

“What happens behind the scenes is completely out of our control. It is not in our hands, nor in those of the coaches or the team management.

“It is regrettable that it has moved in that direction. As players we don’t have control over that and we concentrate on the things we can.”

Elgar’s Indian counterpart Rohit Sharma says for him Test cricket is the pinnacle of the game.

“For me, Test cricket is the biggest challenge.

“You would want to see the best players playing in that format.

“I don’t know what the discussions at Cricket South Africa are, but from my point of view I think priority and a lot of attention should be given to Test cricket.

“Fortunately, we don’t have such problems in India at this stage.”

Sharma believes all countries should prioritize Test cricket.

“This is something that all countries must protect and value,” said the 36-year-old.

Test highlight

Elgar says cricket’s administrators “must make the right decisions for players and the sustainability of our format, especially the Test format”.

“It depends on players to go out and win and show a hunger for the format. As long as I’m here, I’ll be a Test fanatic and I think a lot of the guys are too.”

Elgar says he hopes young players will get the same opportunities he has had in the last 12 years as a Test player.

“We can fight and promote the format as much as we can, but it ultimately depends on the man who makes the sums.

“Hopefully common sense will prevail in the decisions that are made for players in the future.”

Elgar criticized South Africa’s limited Test schedule; they only play a two-match series until the 2026-27 season, after which they play three matches against Australia and England respectively.

“It will be sad if we only play two test matches in a series in the future. For me, it’s not the best way for guys to get to know the format.”

Regarding Wednesday’s Test, Elgar – who scored 185 in the first Test – says that it is important to concentrate on the match and not his personal circumstances.

“This is a huge test for us, the highlight test of the year,” says Elgar, who will report as captain of Somerset in the county championship later this year.

“We still have a game where we have to make a good start. We will worry about the retirement after the time.”