It didn’t take some smart-arse South African supporters long to latch onto the different moods of the English and South African captains following the conclusion of the Tests in Galle and London.
There was Hashim Amla, in his first Test as a skipper, lapping up the plaudits, heaping praise on his batsmen, struggling to find the right adjectives to describe Dale Steyn and looking like a tactical genius for the way in which he rotated bowlers and kept faith with a leg-spinner (who couldn’t get his line and most infuriatingly his length right) as Sri Lanka set about chasing that target of 370 on the fourth evening.
Alastair Cook, meanwhile, had a shocker at Lord’s (and before that Trent Bridge and before that Headlingly) as England’s cricket team has crumbled amidst claims of ghosts haunting hotel rooms. KP is absent, so can no longer be blamed.
So who then?
As Amla can attest after Galle, as captain you’re only as good as the team around you and in particular the senior group.
JP Duminy’s crucial century while marshalling the tail to get South Africa to a first innings total of 450-plus, was followed by Steyn’s dismantling of Sri Lanka in the first innings, then by AB de Villiers enhancing South Africa’s advantage in the second innings before Steyn, supported by Morné Morkel, ripped through the hosts in their second dig.
Cook’s own form is a huge problem just now, but at those times, it’s the senior core of players who need to provide support, and apart from James Anderson, there’s been very little help forthcoming from Matt Prior, Ian Bell and Stuart Broad.
It’s a strange business is captaincy. At one stage following Graeme Smith’s retirement, there was genuine concern that South Africa lacked the personnel from which a proper leader could be found.
However watching the match unfold in Galle it’s apparent that Amla has the backing of the group.
Witness the interaction between him and De Villiers in the slips, or Faf du Plessis coming over for advice, or even Steyn for that matter.
Of course the final word will rest with Amla, but the willingness to provide assistance is most apparent and very good to see.
One Test is far too small a sample to say how good Amla is at this captaincy business.
The start has been excellent though and a series win (let’s pretend two Tests is a series for now shall we) would enhance his leadership status.
But Cook, too, started well in the captaincy (winning a series from behind in India), and look now. Here’s hoping the wise Amla is paying attention. - The Star