Saluting A True Dean Of South African Batting: Dean Elgar

image-lr4rqli0Dean Elgar recently retired from international cricket [AP]

Throughout his checkered career, one that lasted a decade, a solid decade wherein he faced everyone from Mitchell Johnson to Kemar Roach, Shanon Gabriel to Jasprit Bumrah, R. Ashwin to Nathan Lyon - a thing stood out for Dean Elgar

And it was his pure commitment to Test cricket; remember, for the entirety of his career, he played one format wherein he continued as the vanguard of Protea batting. And it's one that is recognised as the keeper of the game's spirit: Test match cricket. 

In an age where many a jolly youngster promises to carry the baton of Test match cricket seldom, however, focusing on the form, Dean Elgar stood out from his peers for his absolute devotion to the format. 

There are several promising youngsters who also have established names in the game, such as Nicholas Pooran, Brandon King, Ishan Kishan, Dewald Brevis, Fakhar Zaman, and the like, who play little or no Test cricket at all. 

In that sense, Dean Elgar, who unfortunately didn't score mammoth runs in his final Test for his beloved South Africa, stood out as being a Test cricket purist.

However, that's not all; Dean Elgar persisted in a cricketing outfit at a time when it was perhaps most unstable. 

For someone who debuted at a time when greats- Hashim Amla and Abraham Benjamin De Villiers- were already regulars and Francois Faf du Plessis was about to make a name for himself, Dean Elgar became the central template in a constantly changing Protea portrait. 

The baton of captaincy would soon come in Faf's hands, and old guards, gritty and gregarious, Steyn, Morkel, Tahir and Philander were phasing out or nearing the twilight zone. 

In some ways, therefore, Dean Elgar, 86 Tests to his name, held an end firmly while much around him changed and sought a state of consistency at the other. 

He was, in no uncertain terms, the constantly unwavering phenomenon about South Africa long before the likes of de Zorzi, Markram and Jansen arrived. 

He batted with unflinching caution and liked; it could be said with a sense of confidence, to bat long. 

Always focused, technically correct and possessing a quintessentially unflappable Protea demeanour, Dean Elgar showed restraint in an age where being brash is considered perhaps fashionable. 

image-lr4rsczqElgar slammed a match-winning ton in Centurion [AP]

That 37 of his 152 Test innings culminated in either a fifty or score north of it added lyrics to the music that his bat produced, always soft and always central to the South African theme. 

It was a theme of patience and subdued nationalistic fervour that didn't loudly pronounce his unabashed love for the South African cause. 

Surely, somewhere, his little over 5,300 plus Test runs don't quite do justice to the gargantuan appetite Dean Elgar possessed for run-making. 

It somewhere puts him into the Ramnaresh Sarwan meets Tom Latham league of willow-wielders, seldom attacking but always putting a high price on his wicket. 

Up for a challenge and unwilling to hide the disgruntlement upon a failure with the bat. 

This also offers more fodder to build a case for Elgar's runs not starring solely in his cause, for they were for the greater good of the team akin to the likes of Pujara and Rahane, or as seen in the case of his own compatriot, Faf. 

When Dean Elgar dragged his body through the drudge during his monumental effort of 199, circa 2017-18, his batting eventually led to a South African victory. 

The end result of a 388-delivery-stay at the wicket was a vital 333-run win at Potchefstroom. 

Not an awful change in how Elgar batted for his Proteas until his career's end, a journey that, with some reconsideration, may have continued for at least two more years. 

His most recent effort prior to the loss of South Africa in the Second Test against India spelt a mammoth victory for the hosts. The Centurion, not even a fortnight ago, saw in Dean Elgar a gritty centurion: a dogged 185 was the lion's share of runs on a pitch where they all floundered: whether Gill, Rohit, Markram or Temba Bavuma.  

Though it could be argued that each of these names in world cricket commands bigger fan bases and greater cults on social media, one cannot possibly undermine the importance of Dean Elgar for resorting to the basic templates that govern Test cricket and ensure its endurance: discipline and focus. 

Add to that the love for grind, and you had a Dean of batting who reminded a sport that often opens its arms to troll armies and raucousness, the value of simplicity. For all you did and failed while attempting to for your South Africa, let us congratulate you for being the gentle but bright spark of the Protea fire.