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Hashim Amla’s awe-inspiring journey from quiet and unassuming cricketer to captaining South Africa

Hashim Amla will be the second non-white cricketer to captain South Africa © Getty Images
Hashim Amla will be the second non-white cricketer to captain South Africa © Getty Images

Hashim Amla, the lynchpin of South Africa’s batting line-up has succeeded Graeme Smith as the Test captain of South Africa. Bharath Ramaraj looks back at the journey of Amla from a batsman who initially struggled to make his presence felt to becoming the second non-white cricketer to captain South Africa. He will captain South Africa  in a two match Test series against Sri Lanka next moth.

It was 125 years ago in 1889, when South Africa’s Owen Dunell  walked out with England skipper, Aubrey Smith for the toss in the first ever Test played by the Rainbow Nation at Port Elizabeth. Since then,  31 more cricketers have gone onto captain South Africa with guts and gumption.

On June 3rd of 2014, Hashim Amla known to bisect motionless fielders with his breathtaking artistry became the 33rd captain of South Africa. The once-in a-generation willowy wizard had tough competition for the job from another cricketer known for capturing the imagination of paying public with his majestic game, AB de Villiers. However, the fact that de Villiers is also the wicketkeeper of South African unit in Tests may have resulted in Amla being anointed, as the captain.

When Amla made his Test debut in 2004-05 against India at Kolkata, he didn’t exactly come across as someone who was a batsman extraordinaire. The royal flourish that is attached to his batting these days was missing. Subsequently, when England toured South Africa in 2004-05, Steven Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and company bounced him out in the Test match played at Durban.

The story was something similar when South Africa toured Sri Lanka in 2005 as well. In fact, Sri Lankan players didn’t even seem to rate him. However, the diligent student of the game worked hard to correct his flaws to transform himself from an ‘ugly duckling’ to ‘swan’ at the batting crease.  Here, Gary Kirsten helped Amla in his endeavour to touch riveting peaks as a batsman.

Nowadays, watching the divine grace of Amla’s batsmanship is akin to brush strokes of wonderful calligraphy by a great painter from the renaissance period. In short, his concentration prowess is an epitome of awe-inspiring perfection at the crease.

Having showered praises on one of the modern day greats of the game, it is better to throw in a word of caution. It would be interesting to see how the quiet and unassuming cricketer goes about captaining a South African line-up that is going through a transition period. It has to be remembered that both the great all-rounder, Jacques Kallis and their most successful captain, Graeme Smith have retired. Even more intriguing is the fact that how South African players so used to playing under Smith’s leadership for so long would adjust to Amla’s style of captaincy.

Amla on his part paid tribute to Smith by saying, “I would like to pay tribute to the leadership Graeme Smith has provided throughout my international career.”

Amla is only the second non-white cricketer after Ashwell Prince to captain South Africa. One can only wait with bated breath to see how Amla who avoided limelight will shape the future of South African cricket.

(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)

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