Johannesburg – For now at least, with just over a week to go to the first Test, there is no bad blood between Australia and South Africa, Dean Elgar confirmed on Monday.
The Proteas captain had his first engagement with Australian media in Brisbane and understandably the acrimonious 2018 series was a hot topic. The three-match series that starts next week, is the first time the two teams have met in a Test since that infamous encounter, but while two of the central protagonists; David Warner and Steve Smith are still around, Elgar felt it wouldn’t have any bearing on the upcoming series.
“None at all,” Elgar replied to a question about whether there was still animosity between the teams over the 2018 series. “That was a very tough time for all of us, even though we weren’t the guys who got the brunt of everything, but we were part of that.”
Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft were all sanctioned after the latter was seen rubbing the ball with a piece of sandpaper during the third Test at Newlands in 2018. Even before that there had been an encounter on the stairwell leading up to the dressing-rooms at Kingsmead in the first Test, and then Kagiso Rabada's “shoulder charge” of Smith in the second Test at St George's Park.
"It was extremely juicy even in the build-up to the game in Cape Town. It was interesting times, hopefully that’s been put to bed now," said Elgar.
Part of Warner’s punishment included never being able to captain Australia although that opinion has softened in recent weeks and with an injury cloud hanging over Pat Cummins, Warner is being viewed as a candidate to lead Australia in the first Test.
Recent remarks by former Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis that Warner is a bully, and thus would never earn his respect, were also batted aside by Elgar.
“Personally I don’t hold any animosity towards any of the players that were involved or Cricket Australia. It was unfortunate, but that period has long elapsed and we’ve moved forward as a group,” Elgar continued.
“What is in the past is in the past, it has happened. I don’t hold any grudges. Both Smith and Warner are two cricketers I've played against for over a decade.”
SA will play a four-day match against an invitational team later this week, which will be their only preparation ahead of the first Test at the Gabba. Australia meanwhile will start the second Test against the West Indies in Adelaide on Thursday. They won the first match in Perth by 164 runs.
“They will obviously have had good time in the legs with regards to batting and bowling,” Elgar said of Australia.
“For now we have to maximise the time we have here in Brisbane.”