Prior to departure this week, Independent Media caught up with Proteas legend Hashim Amla in Durban, where he was launching the state-of-the-art PitchVision simulator at “The Hashim Amla Academy and Foundation” situated in Westwood Mall.
Amla found time in his hectic schedule to discuss his relationship with “Quinny” de Kock, desire to improve his record at major ICC tournaments, and his recent Indian Premier League successes.
How would you compare the current World No 1-ranked Proteas ODI squad to previous teams that have gone to the ICC Champions Trophy?
I think in terms of the Champions Trophy, we’ve always had a good, competitive team. Teams with high-quality players. However, I do think this team has been together for the past few years and is in a good space. I don’t want to talk too much of the rankings, because that all sounds too familiar, but the team is in a good space. We’re going over early to gain maximum preparation time by playing a couple of warm-up games against the counties before a three-match series against England to acclimatise ourselves to the conditions.
Your opening partnership with SA Cricketer of the Year Quinton de Kock has been phenomenal over the years. How has this been achieved, considering from the outside you guys are such different characters?
We’ve managed to link up well over the years. We’re actually quite similar in many ways in that we don’t allow many things to faze us. When we are out in the middle, we chat about normal things that any opening pair discuss, like the pitch conditions, etc. I think that’s going to be key in England, with regards to how we assess the conditions.
There is a feeling that pitches will do quite a bit because we’re in England, and the fact there’s two new balls, but in the past we’ve found the wickets to be quite flat and the grounds are not that big, so it can be a place where a platform needs to be set for big scores.
You boast one of the best ODI records by anyone to have ever played limited-overs cricket. Are you happy with your contributions at major tournaments for the Proteas?
I probably haven’t scored as many runs as I would have liked at big tournaments. There have been odd scores at World Cups in the past, but it would be nice to build up some momentum at the Champions Trophy. It’s a short, sharp tournament and if anyone gets on a bit of a run, anything is possible.
Not that you need reminding, but The Oval is where you struck your SA Test record 311 not out. However, the Protess also lost a semi-final in the last Champions Trophy there. Do you have mixed feelings about the ground?
Yes, we’ve won and lost matches at The Oval. But I’ve got really good memories of The Oval. It’s not only the 300 – I also played a couple of matches for Surrey in the past, so I know the ground fairly well. I always enjoy coming back to The Oval because it’s a ground that’s conducive to positive stroke play.
It’s also a very nice ground to play at, because I always find there to be a great atmosphere and vibe in the ground, which is quite different from Lord’s.
When you started playing Test cricket, critics doubted your abilities. The same applied to the beginning of your ODI career. And then it filtered through to T20. Has such criticism always been your motivation to prove people wrong?
It’s not about that for me at all. Cricket is something I enjoy being a part of. The enjoyment comes from playing in winning, successful teams. I have never played the game to prove a point to people. My determination to improve in various formats the longer I play the game keeps it exciting for me.
You were a relatively late starter at the IPL, but have since blossomed in India this past season by striking two centuries. Have you enjoyed the experience and what is the key to your success?
It has been very exciting. Last year I played for a couple of weeks, this year I’ve been there almost the entire season. I believe you can never be complete as a cricketer, and that’s a challenge that motivates me to keep improving myself and that gives me great joy.
Playing with different players and coaches in a really professional environment keeps me going.
It’s also great to have a guy like (Proteas teammate) Davey Miller around. Everybody who plays T20 cricket has to find a way of how to maximise each ball they faces.
You will find many examples of better cricketers who have been successful in T20 cricket without necessarily looking agricultural, as they say. They have played good cricketing shots and managed to get runs.
You recently launched the Hashim Amla Cricket Academy and Foundation. What were the reasons for setting this up?
I’ve been fortunate to play quite a bit of cricket around the world, which has given me experiences about cricket and things outside the game.
I’d like to pass on some of these learnings to someone less fortunate or anyone else who is keen to learn from my experience.
If we are to get children playing and enjoying cricket, which can benefit our society in the long run, then we’re on to something.