Dean Elgar has told Bangladesh to "harden up" and accept the tough talk of Test cricket even as Mominul Haque denied complaining about excessive sledging after the Durban match. Bangladesh expressed their intent to lodge an official objection over both South Africa's conduct and the umpiring at Kingsmead in the immediate aftermath of their defeat, which Elgar felt was an overreaction, especially since he felt Bangladesh were equally vociferous.
"I don't think they're justified, whatsoever. We play the game hard, and if anything we were just giving back what we were getting when we were batting," Elgar said before the second Test in Gqeberha. "It is Test cricket. It's a man's environment when it comes to playing at this level, and I intend to play the game hard. By no means did we swear or use foul language towards the Bangladeshi cricketers, because we respect them. We were just giving them back what we were receiving. I think they need to harden up and play the game at a level that maybe they're not used to. We received it first, and we responded in that way."
Despite his admission that South Africa were vocal, Elgar insisted they never crossed the line. "One of my messages to the players is that we do everything with dignity, and we don't throw our badge or our name away. I didn't see any bad sledging out there, even from their side," he said. "This is Test cricket, and we need to dry our eyes sometimes."
Shortly after Elgar addressed the media, Mominul was asked for his reaction to Elgar's comments and indicated Bangladesh have already dried their eyes, as Elgar may have put it. "I never complained against sledging," Mominul said, despite comments after the Durban Test that the umpires didn't seem to notice South Africa's verbal assault on Bangladesh. "In cricket, sledging happens, and you have to absorb it. You have to take it very easily. I think you guys heard it wrongly."
Among Bangladesh's criticisms of South Africa was that they were particularly harsh on Mahmudul Hasan Joy, who is 21 years old, was playing in his third Test, and became the first Bangladesh batter to score a Test century against South Africa. Elgar denied that Mahmudul was a target because of his inexperience and said South Africa treated him as they would any talented batter. "We wouldn't go out there and intentionally try and intimidate a young player. We'll play the game at a hard level, but we're not there to use language to try to intimidate guys. We'd rather try and intimidate by our skill," he said.
South Africa's spinners ran through Bangladesh in the second innings at Kingsmead•AFP/Getty Images
But he was quick to caveat it with a bit of "in my day," and reminded Bangladesh, rightly or wrongly, that things used to be worse. "Also, this is Test cricket. When I started playing it, the environments were a lot harsher. You were told everything that you didn't want to know about yourself. We're representing our country and we want to win, and if you're playing a little bit of a mind game on the opposition, why not?" Elgar said.
Ultimately, Elgar believed Bangladesh unraveled in the second innings because of the quality of the bowling and not anything South Africa said. "It was the level of intensity at which we were playing. I felt our intensity was right up there with regards to the conditions. Even though we were bowling spinners, the ruthlessness and relentlessness that they showed was world class," he said. "Maybe Bangladesh got caught up in the moment, which played perfectly into our hands. That's what comes with gamesmanship. You've got to outsmart and outplay and outwit your opposition. That's the total emotional and mental side of Test cricket that people forget about sometimes. Then, if you incorporate your skill and ticking the boxes to the best of your ability, that's what sums up Test cricket."
Elgar was also asked about the standard of the umpiring after eight decisions needed to be overturned at Kingsmead, four against South Africa, and had no complaints. "The umpiring was tough. I don't think the pitch helped, especially with the variable bounce, which can challenge the umpires. I feel for them because they're good umpires," he said. "Marais [Erasmus] is the umpire of the year. Adrian [Holdstock] is just starting off in the Test arena, and he's definitely not a bad umpire. After all, they are human beings -- they do make errors, as do the players. But I'm pretty sure they're going to learn a hell of a lot out of that. Whatever the umpire decides, we need to respect that."
Bangladesh also had three appeals not given against South African batters, but chose not review, and replays showed all three would have been out. They found no sympathy from Elgar, who reminded them that they could have taken matters into their own hands. "Technology is there for a reason. If you don't use the technology, then you're holding yourself accountable for their decisions," he said. "Hopefully in the second Test we can have a better show."
Erasmus and Allahudien Palekar will stand in the second Test, with Holdstock as television umpire.