Dean Elgar has been called up to the Proteas Test squad to replace the injured JP Duminy. While Faf du Plessis remains the favourite to take over from Duminy, the selectors might be tempted to blood two rookies come the second Test. By ANT SIMS.
“One man’s injury is another’s opportunity” is a crass but true saying in sport. Irony is also never lost when it comes to cricket – or any other sport really – and with JP Duminy having been ruled out for up to six months after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in fielding drills on a day where he played no part in any of the action, Dean Elgar has now been given a chance.
“We have opted for a like-for-like replacement,” commented CSA selection convener Andrew Hudson. “Dean can bat anywhere in the top order and he also gives us a back-up spin bowling option. He is currently in good form and made 76 with a strike rate of 107 in the Chevrolet Knights’ only 50 overs game to date.
“He had a good debut for the Proteas in their recent ODI series in England and he fully deserves his call-up to our Test squad as well.”
Elgar has played five one-day internationals for the Proteas and had an outstanding first class season during 2009-10, where he scored 1,193 runs at an average of 62.78, followed by 816 runs at 54.49 in 2010-11. He’s played just one first class game for his Knights franchise this season and although he can bowl a bit, Du Plessis still looks to be the most likely successor.
Du Plessis played just four first class matches for the Titans last season, averaging 85.57 in seven innings, and had a good run with the South African A team earlier this year, scoring 144 and an unbeaten 55 against Sri Lanka A in June. He’s blown hot and cold in the shorter format of the international game, but scored some handy runs for the Chennai Super Kings in the Champions League t20 held in South Africa.
The Proteas, who are in the quest of defending their number one Test ranking in Australia, will heavily rely on Duminy’s replacement in the second Test to serve as a part-time spin bowling option and as a batsman to shepherd the tail. It’s a role into which Duminy has grown, and while Du Plessis has previously said that he’ll “bat anywhere”, throwing him into the deep end with a wagon of responsibility could make or break his career.
With South Africa having opted to go all pace for the first Test against Australia, leaving out Imran Tahir, they now have to go back to the drawing board when it comes to selection for the second Test. While Tahir does serve his purpose, he has struggled for consistency and is impatient far too often, struggling to make the spinning role his own. The Brains Trust now have to decide whether they will bring Tahir back or possibly blood two Test rookies in what could prove to be a deciding Test.
While South Africa has always been classed as being rather traditional and boring when it comes to Tests, the team has started to shake the shackles over the recent months and been aggressive and innovative in crunch situations. So while injury is always a tragedy, it’s another chance for the Proteas to prove that they are no longer afraid of trying something new.
For Duminy’s teammates, most of whom suffered through the career-ending injury of Mark Boucher just a few months ago, the injury to the lower order batsman was chilling.
"I was sitting having some dinner and I just saw some guys carrying someone in," said Du Plessis.
"I went to see what happened and when I saw it was JP, I just got that cold, nauseous feeling. I am obviously close with JP and I don't wish anything bad on anyone. I felt terrible. You could see it was quite serious; you could see on his face."
Duminy’s injury is a tragedy and somewhat spooky since it was an injury to Ashwell Prince which saw him make his debut in Australia almost four years ago. Ironically, Du Plessis now finds himself in the same situation.
"I knew I would be next in line straight away, because I know I am a replacement batter if something goes wrong with one of the guys playing," Du Plessis said. "The feeling was there that I was going to play in the next Test, but it wasn't a nice feeling.
“It was a bad feeling.” DM
Photo: South Africa's Dean Elgar catches a ball during a training session before the second one-day international cricket match against England at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, England August 27, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown