India skipper Rohit Sharma in action during the first Test against South Africa in Centurion. Reuters
India skipper Rohit Sharma maintained that Test cricket for him still is the “ultimate challenge” while South African counterpart Dean Elgar was saddened with the prospect of his team fielding a second-string side in their upcoming tour of New Zealand.
Cricket South Africa had recently announced a 14-member squad for the two-Test series comprising seven uncapped players, one of whom (Neil Brand) has been named captain. The decision not only raised eyebrows across the cricket fraternity, it deepened fears over Test cricket’s future while attracting stingent criticism from former cricketers as well as other followers of the game.
“Obviously for me, Test cricket is the ultimate challenge. You would want to see the best players playing in that format,” Rohit told reporters on the eve of the second Test in Cape Town.
“I don’t know what the discussions are in Cricket South Africa but from my perspective I think that the priority and a lot of thought should be given to Test cricket.
“Luckily we don’t have those kinds of problems in India at this point of time,” added Rohit.
The Indian skipper added that all nations, and not just a handful, needed to come forward in order to safeguard Test cricket and ensure it remains an integral part of the cricketing calendar.
“It’s something all countries need to protect and give importance to. All the nations that are playing, it is their responsibility to keep it nice and entertaining and competitive,” added the 36-year-old.
Elgar saddened by decline of Tests in SA
On the eve of his 86th and final Test match, Elgar said he was “sad” South Africa would be sending a weakened team to play two Test matches in New Zealand.
“The situation we’ve been put in is not ideal,” Elgar said on Tuesday, on the eve of the second Test against India at Newlands, where he will captain South Africa in his last match before retiring from international cricket.
Only two of the players who won the first Test by an innings last week will be travelling to New Zealand — the result of a decision by Cricket South Africa to prioritise the SA20 franchise competition.
“Irrespective of what has happened behind the scenes there is still a lot of hunger (for Test cricket) from the guys who are playing,” he said.
Elgar said the positive from the situation was that it was an opportunity “for the guys going to New Zealand to put in performances and to eventually become regular members of the squad.”
But he quickly said the decision to put the Twenty20 league ahead of Tests had nothing to do with the players.
“What happens behind the scenes is totally out of our control. It’s out of our hands, the coaches’ hands, the team management’s hands,” said the 36-year-old.
“It’s sad that it’s gone in that direction. As players we don’t have control over that, we have to focus on what we can focus on.”
Elgar said it was up to cricket’s administrators “to make the right decisions for players and the longevity of our format, especially our Test format.
“It’s up to players to go out and win and show the hunger for this format. As long as I’m around I’m going to be a Test fanatic and I think a lot of our guys are Test fanatics.”
Elgar said he hoped young players would get the opportunities to have the experiences he had had in 12 years of Test cricket.
“We can fight and promote the format as much as you can but it’s up to the guys who count the beans.
“Hopefully there will be a bit of sanity in the decisions for our players going forward,” he said.
Elgar criticised South Africa’s limited Test schedule in which they only play two-match series until the 2026/27 season when they play three matches against both Australia and England.
“It would be sad going forward for us just to play with two Test matches in a series, to me it’s not the best way for guys to learn about the format,” he said.
Regarding the Test starting on Wednesday, Elgar — who scored an imperious 185 in the first Test — said it was important to focus on the match and not his personal situation.
“It’s a massive Test for us, our highlight Test of the year,” said Elgar, who has been linked with English county sides Somerset and Essex.
“We have another game where we have to make a solid start.
“We’ll worry about the retirement afterwards.”
With inputs from AFP