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South Africa have had a number of truly exceptional players since their return to international cricket. Blessed with Asian wrists and South African grit, Hashim Amla is today among the top batsmen in the world. Shiamak Unwalla looks at the man, who could one day go down as one of the greatest players in the modern game.
It is a rare sight indeed when a batsman from the bouncy, quick wickets of South Africa plays with the elegance and grace that comes from decades of playing on flaccid subcontinent tracks. And yet, that is what Hashim Amla is famous for; unflinching determination in the face of even the fastest of bowling, with wrist-work VVS Laxman would be proud of.
When Amla made his Test debut, it was apparent from day one that he was tailor-made for the longer format. A century in only his fourth game set the tone. He has scored 20 more since.
However, his One-Day International (ODI) potential still remained untapped. Like most technically sound Test batsmen — Rahul Dravid and Cheteshwar Pujara would agree — Amla was not considered “One-Day material.” As a result, he made his ODI debut a full four years after he won his Test cap. Awarding him a debut in ODIs was one decision Cricket South Africa (CSA) “would be proud of.
Since his ODI debut in 2008, Amla has scored 4,264 runs in 87 matches at an average of 54.66 and a strike rate of over 90. As a frame of reference, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli — widely regarded as two of the best ODI batsmen in the world — average 53.28 and 52.16, respectively. Both men have a strike rate of around 89 as well. This shows just how impressive Amla’s record really is.
The South African Test skipper has three centuries in his last four ODI innings. The century he scored in the second ODI against Sri Lanka made up for over half the runs South Africa scored; 101 out of 180. The Proteas did not score a run after his dismissal — he was the eighth man out — and Sri Lanka managed to stay alive in the series.
Amla is an integral part of this young South African side — his value in the side is perhaps matched only by AB de Villiers — in both ODIs and Tests. He has the ability to play every shot in the book from the cover drive to the flick; the sweep to the slog. What really stands out about him is his follow-through; there usually is none. Such is the power in his wrists and the timing he possesses, that he rarely needs to use any muscle to send the ball to all ends of the ground.
Along with Kohli and de Villiers, Amla could well go down in the record books as one of the truly great batsman of his generation. If he keeps scoring his runs by the truckload, he might even stay ahead of the rest.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)
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