Elgar ready to adjust to South Africa's needs
Dean Elgar, JP Duminy's replacement in the South African squad, is counting on his ability adapt to strengthen his case for a spot in the Test XI. Elgar arrived in Brisbane on Wednesday and has four days to settle in before the squad regroups on Sunday.
It is thought that Elgar is unlikely to play because Faf du Plessis was already in the touring party and will probably be promoted, but Elgar's selection indicates he is in the national selectors' future plans. He was called a "like for like replacement" for Duminy by convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson because apart from being a frontline batsman, his left-arm spin is a useful part-time option.
But there is dissimilarity too, because Elgar has played most of his cricket in the top order and if he were to come in for Duminy, he would have to bat in the lower-middle order. It will require him to play a slightly different role, one which Duminy noted provides less batting time but more freedom because "the bowlers tend to forget about you."
Elgar thinks it's a position he will be able to fit into with ease. "I don't think it will be a problem to adjust to the middle order, it's just a bit of a mind-set change," he said. "I see myself as a versatile, flexible player and I can bat in the top order or middle order, whatever the case may be. It's one of my better assets."
During South Africa's one-day series against England in August, Elgar batted at No. 4, No. 3, where he made his top-score of 42, and No. 7 as part of the floating line-up. Although he did not manage any milestones on the trip, Elgar believes the experience he gained from being around the team will stand him in good stead on this tour.
"Being someone who is not as active in the side and then coming for the first time to a place Australia tour, which is a tough tour, could be quite difficult." He said. "But luckily I have had a taste of some international cricket and that does help." He has also toured Australia before with the South African Emerging side in 2008 and 2009.
Elgar's previous involvement also means he does not need the Gary Kirsten coaching method explained to him. He understands it as being based on a philosophy in which players are accountable for their own actions. "You can prepare like an adult, they don't treat you like children. It's an adult's set-up and they trust you to do what you have to do before a game. They trust you to prepare the way you want to prepare for a game or for a net session. There is a lot more responsibility on you."
Those who have followed Elgar's career may believe he will develop quicker in an environment like that, especially as his ability to lead is clear - he captained the Under-19s in the past - and his discipline has been obvious. They may also believe he is finally getting an opportunity in the format to which he appears best suited. When Elgar was making his name at the domestic level, it was in the longer version that he was most proficient. Elgar has played in the South African A side with great success over the last few years, most recently during his 177 against Sri Lanka A in June.
Elgar, too, is pleased that he has been recognised in the longer format. "I love first-class cricket because that's the finest, purest form of the game," he said. "I also love my one-day cricket because it adds a different dimension to the game, but if you had to put the two on the table and say chose one, I would have to say the longer format."
His penchant for spending hours at the crease is something the circumstances may not allow for on this tour, but Elgar hopes it will remain a feature of his game. "I think you reach a point where you just want to keep on batting - ask guys like Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla. It's just the enjoyment factor. You've got to look at the finer things and realise that the longer you bat, the more you are going to score and the better it is for your side. That's something I have worked on in the past, especially in four-day cricket."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent