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As India take on South Africa in ICC World T20 2014 semi-final at Dhaka, Hashim Amla could well play a crucial role in the explosive South African batting line-up. The right-handed batsman with his incontrovertible self-belief has crossed many hurdles to make his mark across formats. Bharath Ramaraj looks at the lynchpin in South African batting line-up across formats.
One of the key challenges for a modern day cricketer is to adapt across all three formats of the game. It becomes even more difficult when someone is branded merely as a Test batsman or Twenty20 (T20) batsman.
South Africa’s Hashim Amla was one of them who was never expected to scale great heights in the shorter versions of the game. In fact, selectors didn’t even plump for him for the abridged versions of the game for many years. It took almost four years for him to be picked in the One-Day International (ODI) squad and no less than five to make his debut in Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is). However, in a short space of time, he has turned around his game, especially in ODIs. When India take on South Africa in ICC World T20 2014, they will be looking up to him to stand toe-to-toe against Indian bowlers and script South Africa’s path to the final.
Amla is a batsman who even in T20Is sticks to the pillars of strength that have helped him to succeed in Tests. He doesn’t necessarily come dancing down the wicket to play an agricultural hoick across the line or play most of those fancy shots. For him, it is mainly about piercing gaps in the field with dexterous wrists.
The essence of his batsmanship can be seen by the way he played against England during the Group stages of ICC World T20 2014. He waited for the loose ball and when it came, he duly dispatched to the boundary boards with his felicitous strokes. Those surgical-like hands were in full flow that night. Every time, Jade Dernbach bowled on a batsman’s pads, he nonchalantly flicked it through the on-side. During the second over of the game, when Amla played with unruffled grace to essay a flick off a delivery that was on the shorter side for a six, it sent the crowd into a tizzy.
It still has to be said that comparatively his record in T20Is is not spectacular. Actually, the fifty he compiled against England was his first in the format. His batting average of 25.13 and a strike rate of 121.94 are not world-class. But make no mistake, here is one batsman who every-time has been asked to pass the trial by fire has done it with flying colours.
The supposedly stereotype Test match player has come a long way since the days when he used to play shots straight to the fielder. He now can bisect the gaps in the field with utmost ease.
The high voltage contest between India and South Africa has many subplots to look forward to. One of them is how Amla with his Asian wrists is able to engineer South Africa to a fine total against the wily Indian spinners.
(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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