CAPE TOWN – Every successful Test captain throughout the storied history of the longest version of the game has been able to call on an impressive fast bowling unit.
Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards had the legendary West Indies quartets at their disposal, while the Australian leaders Mark Taylor and Ricky Ponting had some of the world's best head-hunters leading the Baggy Green's attack during their golden era.
Closer to home Graeme Smith was able to press on the buttons of South African fast bowling greats Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel in addition to the all-round skills of Jacques Kallis during the Proteas' march to the ICC World No 1 Test mace – much like New Zealand's Kane Williamson now has the luxury of a classy attack that consists of Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson that drove them to glory in the World Test Championship final in Southampton this week.
New national Test captain Dean Elgar certainly knows that a feared pace unit is the foundation required to build his Proteas house on.
“As the captain, I'm very privileged to have those guys in my attack. Their roles are so different, and so big. Respect. They're going to become better, which is exciting for me. And maybe fearful for me because I have face them in the nets.”
Great fast bowlers require great catching behind in the wicket from the gloveman and slip cordon to be successful though. It was an aspect that the Proteas had struggled with prior to their arrival in the Caribbean, but through a combination of hard work behind the scenes and a change in personnel with Aiden Markram and Wiaan Mulder being installed at second and third slip the results have changed dramatically.
“The biggest thing is to attack your weakness and make them your strengths,” Elgar said.
“For that I've got to give credit to our coaching staff. The intensity we are operating at now is maybe at a level we were lacking in the past. It was the first time [Wiaan Mulder has] been put at third slip, I think in his career, and he looked like a natural. It was Aiden's first time at second slip, and he was also a natural.”
Unfortunately for Elgar and the Proteas they will not be able to build on this new-found momentum and confidence immediately as they will need to wait until December for their next Test assignment against Virat Kohli’s Indian team at home.