For most of his Test career Hashim Amla has let his bat do the talking. Now, as Test captain, that will have to change.
By how much, as Amla said yesterday, only time will tell.
While not exactly polar opposites, Amla steps into a position previously held by a man who wasn’t shy about sharing his opinion and who one couldn’t fail to notice. Graeme Smith was not just a mighty cricketer but a mighty personality as well, strong-willed and forceful.
Amla is a different personality, tough like Smith, but not as easily accessible and certainly quieter.
“Hash feels it’s time to contribute more, he’s contributed a lot behind the scenes in the last few years anyway and this is just an extension of what he’s done behind the scenes, and this I suppose is just a more formal role,” said the South African coach Russell Domingo yesterday when Amla – nicknamed The Mighty # – was formally unveiled as South Africa’s fifth permanent Test captain of the post-isolation era.
“It will probably be different from what we’ve become accustomed to, but that will be refreshing and exciting,” Domingo added.
Smith’s legacy to South African cricket is an indelible one. He took a South African side still stained by the Hansie Cronjé scandal and shaken by a humiliating exit in a home World Cup, and gave it an identity on the international scene.
Where once there was shame attached to playing for South Africa, now there is honour along with an integrated culture which allowed a player like Amla to flourish.
“Over the last few years the team has gelled extremely well and credit must go to the coaching staff and Graeme, in the way they have managed the team,” said Amla.
“It’s a high performing Test team. If you look at the results in the last few years, we’ve been the best in the world apart from recently. I don’t think too many changes need to happen from a team culture point of view.”
He stated yesterday that he had no role models as far as captaining was concerned. “What I’ve learnt in international sport is that you don’t try and copy anybody. Generally guys who try and copy are not that successful. That’s what I’ve done with my batting. The way I approach my game is to be as natural as possible – to find intrinsically what works for me.”
Though there had been three major contenders for the captaincy – AB de Villiers was a frontrunner and Faf du Plessis the outsider – once Amla threw his hat in the ring, the choice for Andrew Hudson and the selection panel seemed clear.
Amla, explained Hudson, was ideal for the period of transition that the team was undertaking. “There’s a lot of ODI cricket coming up with the World Cup and we wanted AB, who’s developed nicely in that format as captain and has a good relationship with Russell, to continue with that process. Hashim just brings that calmness and composure at the head of the team that we think we need right now. There are going to be a few new faces with the team and he is a player new guys tend to look to anyway. This is just a formal role.
“He’s always been a guy who is quite structured. When he wanted to just concentrate on his batting, then that’s what he did. He just feels he’s at a stage now where he can offer more to the team than just runs.
“Most importantly, the other senior guys, AB, JP (Duminy), Faf, Dale (Steyn) and Morné (Morkel) are very tightly behind this. They’ve thrown their support behind him.”
“In a leadership position you’re more a servant than you are a leader,” said Amla. “You’re here to serve the people that you’re responsible for, so I’ll give all my heart to the position and to gain as much knowledge from my own team members as well as other people around the world who can add value.”