Cape Town - Hashim Amla has emerged as the leading candidate ahead of AB de Villiers to take over the Proteas Test leadership from Graeme Smith.
The official announcement is scheduled for 12.30pm on Tuesday in Johannesburg, shortly after a Cricket South Africa board meeting where the credentials of Amla, ODI captain De Villiers and Twenty20 skipper Faf du Plessis will be discussed. Amla flew back to South Africa over the weekend after a short stint at English county championship team Surrey, where he ironically replaced the injured Smith, who retired from all international cricket last March after a decade at the helm.
The Cape Times understands that at this stage Amla is the preferred applicant due to his vast experience (76 Tests), astute tactical awareness, esteem with which he is regarded within the Proteas environment and his renowned batting skill. Amla would also be South Africa’s first official black Test captain, a fact that cannot be ignored, especially as the country’s sports minister Fikile Mbalula has recently become more vigilant in the quest to transform sports such as rugby and cricket.
De Villiers was previously touted as the “heir apparent” to Smith’s throne, with the exceptionally talented 30-year-old serving as vice-captain in the longest format for the past couple of years. He also previously declared that he is “ready” for the increased responsibility, unlike Amla, who has distanced himself from leadership roles in the past.
However, Amla has had a change of heart since Smith and Jacques Kallis’s retirement from the Test side, believing “it is a good time for me, if appointed, to add value to the team”.
Team strategy also has to be considered due to De Villiers also fulfilling the double role of wicket-keeper/batsman in the Test side - a duty that he has already forfeited in both limited-overs formats due to the emergence of Quinton de Kock. He has stated that he would have to quit the gloves if made captain in the longest version of the game.
Although the young Highveld Lions star is expected to be included in the Test party for Sri Lanka, which is also being named on Tuesday, experience is required in such a crucial position due to the spate of retirements last summer.
Installing Amla as captain would allow De Villiers to continue behind the stumps, especially as contrary to popular belief, his batting average is actually higher since taking over the gloves. De Villiers has scored 1 823 runs, which includes six centuries, in 21 Tests at an average of 56.96 when he’s kept wicket, compared to his overall average of 51.94.
Du Plessis’s credentials as a future leader rose at the World T20 after leading the Proteas through some close encounters, which ultimately climaxed at the semi-final stage. The former Affies prodigy, though, is believed to have slipped down the pecking order since Amla made himself available due to his lack of Test-match experience. Du Plessis has only played 14 Tests.
The process of appointing the new captain will see CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat make a presentation to the CSA Board of Directors to put forward the national selection panel’s views. The Board will then hold a discussion, where they will either reach a consensus or vote independently for the nominee of their choice.
CSA last appointed a Test captain back in 2004 when they made the bold decision of appointing a 23-year-old who “has no baggage”, with then-chief executive Gerald Majola saying “we are venturing into new terrain”.
With Smith leading the Proteas in a world-record 109 Tests and to the No 1 ICC World Test ranking during that period, it would be fair to say South African cricket is entering a new era regardless of who spins the coin on July 16 on the morning of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle.