Sometimes if you look at the bigger picture on the horizon, the smaller picture in front of you comes into sharp focus. That is why I think the South African cricket bosses should appoint Hashim Amla as our new national Test captain today.
Do I still need to define “the bigger picture”? It comes down to holding the beautiful fabric of our complicated country in your hands, remembering the texture of the past and making the moral choice for the future.
It’s not an easy choice, but it is a moral one. The bigger picture is that the appointment of Amla would send out a powerful message, not just in terms of transformation in sport, but also for our society and our country.
Let me say right here and now that I admire AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis very much. (JP Duminy is also in the running, but he surely must be a Kaapse buiteperd).
AB de Villiers is the Pele of the Proteas, the magic man who dazzles and delights us with his outrageous shot-making year in and year out. I can watch AB bat on an empty stomach any day of the week, because I know he will satisfy my hunger. What worries me is that the burden of the captaincy might dilute some of the AB potion, and then there are the constant question marks about whether he should wear the gloves or not.
Faf du Plessis has an aura. The calm and weighty aura of a leader. He has a bit of a Mike Brearley about him. His tactical acumen in the heat of battle has been deeply impressive. Faf would be an excellent choice.
Hashim Amla would be our first full-time black Test cricket captain. Read those words again, for they carry a powerful load. That is why I believe Hashim would morally be the right choice. But the great thing about Hashim is that his appointment would be far more than a moral one. It would also be a great cricket selection.
Amla is one of the most respected cricketers around the globe. He stands proudly in the first rank of the world’s best batters. And, crucially, we should remember the path that he had to walk to get there. The endless debate about his mental strength. The grumbling and the mumbling and the chatter about his backlift and his technique. Is there anyone who still thinks about a strange backlift when the wristy wizard sends yet another ball clattering into the ad boards?
Whoever is appointed today will have a biffload of pressure to deal with. I have devoted a couple of columns to the power of Graeme Smith, and I will miss old Smithy Squarejaw for a long time.
But I think Hashim will have the respect of the South African dressingroom and he will be strong enough to cope with the captaincy and his batting. And, yes, “Amla #theproteascaptain” would be painting another part of the bigger picture.
w Ian Smit is the sports editor of the Cape Times.