In a surprising development, Lance Klusener has been appointed captain of the Nashua Dolphins next season after Hashim Amla asked to be relieved of the job this week.

The chief executive of the KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union (KZNCU), Enver Mall, said Amla had first approached him a month ago, saying he wished to give up the captaincy. Mall advised him to go away and think about it further. On Monday this week, Amla confirmed to Mall that he still wanted to quit.

Klusener, 33, whose international career appears to be over, captained the Dolphins for a substantial period last season while Amla played for South Africa "A" against New Zealand and for the Proteas in the series against India and England.

Amla, 22, who succeeded Dale Benkenstein as captain last season, said he needed more first-class and limited-overs experience to give of his best as captain.

"I sincerely believe that I can give of my best at this stage of my career if I am left to concentrate entirely on my batting. The fact that Lance has agreed to captain the team has made my decision to step down easier. Lance did a great job last season when he captained the team in my absence. During my period of captaincy I relied heavily on his sound advice and experience," Amla said.

Mall said Klusener was the obvious choice to take on the leadership role. He and the all-rounder had a short meeting at the Sahara Stadium, Kingsmead on Tuesday, and Klusener readily agreed to take on the job.

Klusener said he had enjoyed being captain last season and would be happy to skipper the Dolphins this summer.

He added that being captain would be good for him. "When you've played first-class cricket for as long as I have, there's always a temptation to drift off when the game is going nowhere. Being captain will help to maintain my focus."

His recipe for success next season? "So long as we prepare properly, and play with passion and pride, then I'll be happy."

He praised Amla for taking a "brave decision". "Hashim's got a long career ahead of him, but I think he's done the right thing to put his batting first at this stage," he said.

The president of the KZNCU, Sathie Govender, said that while he was disappointed that Amla had stepped down, he was "extremely impressed" by his maturity and honesty in reaching his decision.

"We have no doubt that Hashim will resume as captain some time in the future. I am also thrilled that we have a cricketer of the calibre of Lance Klusener to assume the leadership role."

The Dolphins enjoyed a reasonably successful 2004/5 season, sharing the SuperSport Series trophy with the Eagles and reaching the semi-finals of the Standard Bank Cup.

Amla began and ended the season in prolific form, striking his first double-century in the SuperSport Series final which the Dolphins narrowly failed to win.