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South Africa focused on beating India despite off-field woes

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JOHANNESBURG: Test captain Dean Elgar says he will not let the allegations of racist conduct that have come to light at Cricket South Africa in recent months become an excuse for failure as his side prepare to host India in a three-match series from Sunday.

Director of cricket Graeme Smith, who denies the claims, and national team coach Mark Boucher were among a number of CSA employees implicated in “tentative findings” made by the Social Justice and Nation Building Ombudsman into alleged past discrimination.

CSA confirmed on Tuesday they would investigate the conduct of everyone implicated in the report, though only once the series with India has concluded.

“What happens off the field for me is irrelevant now,” Elgar told reporters on Tuesday. “As a playing unit we have been through such crappy times [amid the COVID-19 pandemic] that we have formulated such a good bond within our group.

“Our culture has been tested and pushed to levels that I didn’t think it could be pushed to in my short term as captain. We’ve had so many different administrators, we don’t even know who’s there now.

“It’s not ideal to have these headlines coming up, we just want to focus on our cricket, playing a really tough series against India.

“We must be mindful that if things are bad off the field, we can’t use that as a cop-out for us. We are a professional team and professional players.”

Elgar appeared to give his backing to Boucher after former Test spinner Paul Adams said he had been called a “brown shit” in a South Africa team song during his time in the side, including by former wicket-keeper Boucher, who has since apologised.

“From the players point of view, we back our coaches and management,” Elgar said. “They put in so much work that goes unnoticed, and it gets watered down by the media. I know what they do behind the scenes. It is not nice to see our coaches get lambasted for things.”

Elgar twice described India as “the best team in the world” but said the South African team had put in three good days of preparation.

With the majority of the likely starting team having played little or no red-ball cricket this season, Elgar said the preparation had included match simulation, “which has been pretty productive.”

Elgar acknowledged that India had a much-improved fast bowling line-up but said he backed his own bowlers, even without Nortje who has been ruled out of the three-match series because of a hip injury, in home conditions.

“We know that it’s going to be tough but we know that it’s going to be tough for the Indian batters to face our bowlers. I’d rather be sitting here knowing that than sitting in the Indian dressing room knowing they have to face our fast bowlers.”

Elgar said he expected a “good cricket wicket” at Centurion which would enable batsmen to score runs if they applied themselves, while offering assistance to bowlers with pace and bounce.

South Africa have, meanwhile, revealed they will be without fast bowler Anrich Nortje for the series after he failed to sufficiently recover from injury. They will not be calling up a replacement.

Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2021

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