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Tetchy Dean Elgar bats for Mark Boucher and bemoans ‘negativity in the media’


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South Africa’s Test captain says focus on the head coach’s disciplinary hearing is taking the spotlight away from the team’s recent on-field successes

Constant conversations around Mark Boucher‘s upcoming disciplinary hearing are taking the spotlight away from South Africa’s recent successes, according to Test captain Dean Elgar. Speaking at the squad’s departure press conference ahead of their two-Test tour of New Zealand, three of the first five questions put to Elgar were about Boucher’s situation. When he was asked one more towards the end of the interaction about balancing talk about cricket with discussion about the politics in the sport, Elgar was, as he often is, upfront.

“It takes away everything we achieved and for me that’s bulls**t,” he said. “I know it’s extremely relevant in the public eye and it is relevant for us, no doubt, but as a players’ group, we’ve achieved so much and that gets squashed by negativity in the media. Rightly so, it sells headlines.”

But Elgar did not entirely shy away from his responsibility in answering tough questions. “I know I have to answer these things and that’s okay. I have got absolutely no issue with doing that because I understand interaction between me and the media is extremely important. But this is a presser about going to New Zealand and if you want to talk about the hearing, we can make another time for that,” he said. “I don’t mind speaking about these kinds of externals. Just understand, this is a presser about us leaving tonight to New Zealand to play a Test series and 60% of the questions haven’t been about that so you can understand my frustration. I want to get the right message out there and the questions that are received have got nothing to do with cricket.”

By that point, Elgar, on behalf of the team, had already voiced his support for Boucher, whose dismissal Cricket South Africa is seeking after charging him with gross misconduct. “We’ve realised cricket comes first for us irrespective of what our head coach is going through but we are still supporting him through this process because we know how much value he adds to our system and our group,” Elgar said. “We’ve had these tough times before. We need to stick together, which we’ve done in the past, and let this process follow its course. We know we are there to play cricket; we are there to win matches, win series and that’s ultimately the way I view it. In the same breath, we are still supporting our head coach because he is a massive part of our group.”
It’s not the first time Elgar has stood up for Boucher and the current coaching staff. Before the Test series against India, Elgar said it felt as though the administrators did not offer the coaching staff enough backing and praised the backroom staff’s work ethic. Whether that means Elgar is among those who will testify in Boucher’s defence is yet to be seen but he said the players are ready to play their role in the disciplinary process.

“We had a feeling it might come to this point where players might be asked to testify in the hearing and so be it,” he said. “It’s a natural process that will take place and we will cover those grounds within the next month. We have some time until May to establish some concrete ground for players. I’m sure our player representative board will come into play to assist us through this process if players are asked to testify. I haven’t heard who and when the players will be to fulfil these requests.”

Elgar expects the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) to advise the players, if need be, ahead of any testimony. “This is also where our player representative body comes into play. They will assist and guide players if they need to. I am pretty sure guys like Andrew Breetzke, who is our CEO from SACA, is going to be on top of this. He has got players’ welfare and well-being as the first priority and it’s awesome to have him in our corner,” Elgar said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if Andrew has established these kinds of things in case players are called to testify. But I’m not sure if this is a presser about what’s happening in the hearings or us going to New Zealand. We either call it now or we talk cricket please.”

Boucher’s hearing is scheduled for May 16 to 20, which is more than three months away. South Africa play two Tests in New Zealand followed by two at home against Bangladesh, against whom they also play three ODIs and three T20Is, so there will be plenty more opportunities for Elgar and others to be asked about team culture and their relationship to Boucher, irrespective of the team’s results.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent



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