South Africa skipper Dean Elgar says he was initially “shocked” at Quinton de Kock’s sudden retirement from Test cricket but insisted that the team will take the setback in its stride and strive to level the ongoing series against India.

De Kock, only 29, announced his retirement from the traditional format at the end of the opening Test against India, which the hosts lost by 113 runs at SuperSport Park on Thursday. The left-hander was anyway set to miss rest of the series but retirement came as a surprise.

“I was pretty shocked. But sitting down with Quinny (Quinton de Kock), he explained his reasons and I respect and fully understand his decision,” Elgar said at a virtual press conference on the eve of the second Test.

“I don’t think there will be any,” Elgar responded when asked if there will be any hangover on the players about his retirement.

“The responsibility for us is to carry and conduct ourself as international players. We still have to be professional around this. We still have a Test series to level, so I don’t think there will be any hangover or shock over Quiney’s retirement.

“Players respect the environment. We realise that we had a few setbacks in recent times and we need to obviously have to be clever around it and get over it. I don’t see this affecting the players of still being shocked about his retirement.”

Asked if it will set a dangerous precedent for Test cricket with talented players giving up red-ball game for big bucks through white-ball tournaments, Elgar said: “I don’t think his decision is going to jeopardise Test cricket going forward. His reasons are his reasons and his choice to retire, we as a group fully respect it and we as a group have to get over it and move on now.

“The game moves on, when guys retire. I have been fortunate enough to experience some of the big guys retire, one thing I realised, the game doesn’t stop for you, we have to get over it quickly and respect the position Quiney is in.”

Elgar, who has seen many top cricketers retire during his stint with the team, said it is disappointing to not have de Kock around.

“If it was up to me, I would not have any of these guys retirement but it is part and parcel of the game, it is out of your hand. Don’t get me wrong, not having Quinton around is disappointing for me, something I need to get over,” he said.

“I know there are many other talented cricketers within our squad and the system whom I have to give attention now. It is perfectly fine as tough as it is.”

Elgar feels spinner Keshav Maharaj will retain his place in the playing XI in the second Test as he has a big role to play in the series.

“I am a fan of a frontline spin bowler and Keshav put up his hand, he has played domestic game and Test series against Australia. I think he will retain his spot, he didn’t have a horrible game. I can throw the ball to him and he can bring down the run rate down, so I think he will retain his spot.”

The Proteas captain said the team will look to exploit Keshav’s left-arm spin against the Indian batting line-up which comprises mostly right-handers.

“Sometimes, you go for horses for courses, but Keshav adapts to conditions, he is a smart and capable cricketer and his record speaks for himself,” he said.

“I feel left-arm spinners bowling to 10 right handed batters in India is something we would like to utilise. From stability point of view, he still has an extremely big role to play in this Test series.”

The hosts were dismissed for 197 and 191 in the opening Test.

Elgar hoped that his team “can adopt the language” it has been speaking in the last few days.

“Players have to take responsibility. You can talk and talk until there is action and I did say to the guys that I need to see action now, talk is cheap if you don’t have any reaction to those talks,” he said.

“Test cricket is hard and ruthless environment and if you want to survive, you need to respond to hard questions.

“I am sure they are also disappointed and they are not bad players, they just have to be mentally switch on and Test cricket is bloody tough. You will face the best bowlers in the world now and you need to put your big boy pants and need to react.”