AB de Villiers (left) and Hashim Amla © Getty Images
Hashim Amla’s elevation as captain of the South African Test side may have surprised AB de Villiers’ legion of followers. R Vishal reasons as to this move would favour South Africa in the years to come.
In a move that completed a full circle in his chequered career, Hashim Amla has been named South Africa’s successor of Graeme Smith. AB de Villiers was the front-runner to take over the reins of Smith’s methodically built power-packed side. At 30, this could just be the tonic that de Villiers needs while heading into the best years of his career.
The No 4 position is the heartbeat of every Test team. In Virat Kohli, Michael Clarke and the mercurial de Villiers, some of the best batsmen in the world hold that decorated crown. Undoubtedly, they are some of the top batsmen, but is it the same story when they shoulder the responsibility to lead the side?
After a string of nightmarish displays, Michael Clarke’s Australia bounced back to soar to the top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test rankings. Virat Kohli’s spells as franchise and India captain have also been average at best. This is where Cricket South Africa (CSA) should be credited for deciding to go with forethought than being swayed by popular opinion.
With critics baying for their blood with every minor slip, pressure levels are mountainous. Being the best batsman in the side, supreme levels of consistency are demanded. History also shows how captaining has taken its toll on erstwhile No 4’s.
Looking back at Sachin Tendulkar’s tenure in from 1996-2000, it was evident that leading a group of pedestrian performers rattled the batting legend. Tendulkar’s batting though, still displayed the hunger to hunt down batting records. He was eventually frustrated by India’s poor show as fortunes started to take a turn for the worse.
England outcast Kevin Pietersen too, among other dressing room issues, endured a nightmarish spell as captain. CSA might have certainly thought these mavericks crumbling as the leader. This is to no way suggest that Amla is a lesser cricketer than de Villiers as the former’s Test record in recent years is second to none. Across formats though, de Villiers’s has slightly shaded Amla with his sheer range of strokes.
With ICC 2015 World Cup being less than a year away, the already pressure on de Villiers, the One-Day International (ODI) captain to break the Proteas’ near-misses. In recent times, South Africa have decided to capitalise on his brilliant fielding abilities and hand over keeping’ duties to Quinton de Kock. If parallels were to be drawn, Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara’s form has hit stratospheric heights since the southpaw moved away from behind the wickets.
Moreover, Amla has always been highly rated by selectors as the spearhead. Hoisted to the role at a tender age, the bearded genius took South Africa to the finals of the Under-19 World Cup in 2002. He was also his state, KwaZulu-Natal’s youngest captain. After many years of staying away from the role, Amla finally became receptive to the idea of leading the team only a month ago.
South Africa need to look no further than their greatest servant, Jacques Kallis for what an unburdened lynchpin brings to the side. The forthcoming years may witness de Villiers enjoying a similar vein of fortunes as well.
(R Vishal is a journalist and alumnus of Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)