Dean Elgar is the connection between the present transitional South African side and the formidable Protea team of the past.
When Elgar made his Test debut, against Australia in Perth in 2012, the South African batting line-up included Graeme Smith, Hashin Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, and Faf du Plessis.
Interestingly, Elgar batted No.6, the innings opened by Smith and Alviro Petersen.
And Elgar bagged a ‘pair’ on his Test debut, fired out by Mitchell Johnson in both innings.
He fought back from there, worked his way up the order and is today Captain Courageous.
Adversity always stoked his combative instincts. He came from an obscure mining town of Welkom in the Free State, captained the country’s under-19 team and then slogged it out for seven years in domestic cricket before gaining the South Africa cap.
Elgar comprehends the value of the Protea cap.
Today, Elgar has 4541 runs from 71 Tests at 40.25, often opening in demanding seaming conditions.
But then, the story of Elgar is not one of numbers. It is about heart and fight, batting through pain, playing as if your life depended on the innings.
You watch Elgar, now 34, taking blow after blow on his body on a spiteful pitch at the Wanderers and you know, despite young cricketers leaving the longest format for lucrative Twenty20 leagues, Test cricket is alive and kicking.
Elgar is a fearless batter, who can, enduring hits on his body and helmet grill, hold firm, take responsibility and carry South Africa on his shoulders for one of its greatest Test victories with a monumental unbeaten 96.
You look at cricket history and you find these blood and guts batters. England’s Brian Close was one such player.
And Colin Cowdrey was well past his prime when he went Down Under and faced a barrage of short-pitched bowling from Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lilllee, taking several knocks on his frame.
India’s own Mohinder Amarnath was as courageous as they come. A journalist who met a shirtless Mohinder after a day’s play in Pakistan during the days of Imran Khan & Co., saw his body full of red marks.
Elgar has been more than a brave batter. He has been an inspirational captain who can keep a team together.
As a batter he has his own game. He appears to get beaten but subtly withdraws his bat at the last possible moment, something another left-hander, from the past, Larry Gomes was adept at.
You see the never-say-die Elgar battling at the crease and you realise Test cricket is still breathing.