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Elgar plots path for Proteas ahead of Caribbean tour

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The next new Proteas era starts on Monday, with a long trip to St Lucia, where a side led by Dean Elgar will face a resilient West Indies team in two Tests.

South Africa’s opening batsman and Test captain Dean Elgar. Picture: ICC

JOHANNESBURG – The next new Proteas era starts on Monday, with a long trip to St Lucia, where a side led by Dean Elgar will face a resilient West Indies team in two Tests.

The 19-man squad heads to Paris, and then on to St Maarten – where the airport landing includes a close brush with a nearby beach – before the final haul to the picturesque island, situated in the eastern Caribbean.

The South African Test team has been in a rebuilding phase for so long it’s tiring. However, this tour does have the feel of a new beginning. Directionless for so long, Elgar’s appointment in March, for a two-year stint as skipper, provides much-needed stability in the team’s most important position albeit amidst a pandemic and the various challenges that that entails for a squad.

Elgar hasn’t had much time with the players, who only gathered together on Friday for a short training camp before their departure. “It’s important to try and get the individuals in the squad to trust your process as a captain,” Elgar said yesterday. “It’s tough, when working with different individuals, who have different mindsets and opinions.”

“That’s another challenging aspect, is to actually get players to believe in the process, and do it quickly.”

Elgar will have time for some one-on-one work with the players in St Lucia, with the squad needing to isolate for three days in their hotel. The South African squad were administered with a vaccine this week, as part of the Sisonke trial. Should everyone test negative, by the fourth day of their stay, the players can start practising and three days thereafter they can move freely around in the hotel.

The West Indies players have also been receiving vaccinations this week.

South Africa last played a Test in the Caribbean in 2010, a series many fans may have forgotten as it took place while the Football World Cup was on the go here.

The Proteas won that Test series 2-0, comfortably beating a West Indies side that wasn’t fully focused.

The same can’t be said of the current group, led by Kraigg Brathwaite, who have shown real determination, winning a series, while missing some big names in Bangladesh, and drawing against Sri Lanka recently.

Elgar admits, the Proteas don’t have much information about what to expect from conditions at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, in Gros Islet, other than the pitch could be low and slow. “We’ll have to assess and adapt, and do that quickly,” he said.

Elgar said that Keegan Petersen was set to make his Test debut, to fill the spot vacated by Faf du Plessis’s retirement from the Test format. “He’s been waiting quite some time, so if he gets selected, it’s a massive opportunity for him. There’s a lot of room for him to try and make an impact in our batting line-up,” Elgar explained about Petersen.

The first Test starts on June 10.

* Proteas assistant coach Enoch Nkwe will miss the Test series after being granted family leave. His place will be taken by Titans head coach Mandla Mashimbyi.

SA TEST TEAM FOR WEST INDIES

Dean Elgar (capt), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Sarel Erwee, Beuran Hendricks, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Anrich Nortje, Keegan Peterson, Kagiso Rabada, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lizaad Williams, Prenelan Subrayen, Marco Jansen.