Former Test captain Dean Elgar described a toxic environment of politics and poor administration in South African cricket and said he felt he had been “stabbed in the back” when he was summarily axed from the leadership role last year.

Elgar, 36, is now playing for English county Essex after retiring from international cricket.

He said in a wide-ranging interview with the Rapport newspaper that he had held back from criticising his former employers before his contract with Cricket South Africa (CSA) expired at the end of April.

He said he was exposed to an unhealthy culture after he was appointed captain in March 2021.

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“I became a part-time cricketer and full-time politician, something that I never want to go through again.

“I am a sportsman, not a politician or a cricket administrator, but I was thrown into a cauldron in which I had to be all three. If I had known that before, I would never have accepted the captaincy.”

He said the resignation of former captain Graeme Smith as director of cricket in March 2022 had put a heavy burden on him, coach Mark Boucher and the team management.

Elgar said it was difficult to balance the interests of the team with those of CSA’s management.

“I tried to make the best of a bad job, to control the things I could control. But my own form took a dive.”

He said that with hindsight he wished he had been more selfish and focused more on his own game.

No recognition

It was a shock nevertheless when he was summoned to a meeting with director of cricket Enoch Nkwe and new coach Shukri Conrad in February last year and told that he had been replaced as captain by Temba Bavuma.

“It felt as though they did not recognise all my hard work over the previous year-and-a-half, that they didn’t realise how much we had improved as a team,” said Elgar.

“From being sixth or seventh in the world we became a team with the potential to play in the World Test Championship final.”

Elgar led South Africa in 18 of his 86 Tests. It climbed the Test rankings with the series wins against West Indies, India and Bangladesh before losing away series in England and Australia in his last two series in charge.

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Conrad was appointed as head coach of the Test team in January 2023 and appointing Bavuma was one of his first moves.

According to Elgar, the only reason Conrad gave for the change was that he felt “better aligned” with Bavuma.

Elgar said he had good relationships with his former teammates, including Bavuma, and played under the new captain in series against West Indies and India, captaining the side in his final Test against the latter team after Bavuma was injured.

But he said he realised after the meeting with Nkwe and Conrad that he had to make a decision about his future.

“Shukri Conrad is the reason why my Test career was cut short,” said Elgar.

He said he was enjoying the healthy cricket environment at Essex, where he has a three-year contract.

“I think I don’t fit into the South African situation as it is now and probably into the future,” he said.