Zahira's amazing cousin Hashim
Hashim Amla turned 100 Tests old this week, as he and the Proteas took on Sri Lanka in the third and final Test at The Wanderers.
Tributes poured in all week, from near and far, unanimous in praise. Closer to home, his family is as proud of the giant footprint the Silent Warrior has left on the game and, more importantly, those who have met him through the game.
“I am so proud of the man that he has become,” said his cousin, and former garden cricket teammate Zahira Asmal, one of South Africa’s leading urbanists.
“My early memories of Hashim were of all of us playing cricket in the back garden. For some reason, he and I always used to play in the same team. He was Jonty Rhodes, and I was Dean Jones, who were our respective childhood heroes,” Asmal explained.
“I also remember that he didn’t trust me to run between the wickets when we were batting, which I never understood. So I stayed in my crease, and he would do all the running!”
Away from the field, Amla is regarded as having a sharp sense of humour, and Asmal says this was always the case.
But, she says it has been the grown-up Hashim who has had a profound impact on her life.
“A few years ago, when I was in London, he came on tour with the Proteas, and we hung out. I was incredibly touched by how worldly and well-read he was.
“He introduced me to Buddhism, and a few other books that illustrated that even as a man devoted to Islam, he was still open to learning
more about other people and their cultures.
“I think, for all his cricket talent, that evening made me realise that he was a great man. He lent me a few books - which he reminded me to return - and I understood why so many people across demographics look up to him. He is inclusive, and not exclusive.”
Amla also produced match tickets for the Lord’s Test for Asmal and some friends, some of whom had never been to a cricket match.
“It’s funny, because those same people are now Hashim fanatics, and they send me updates on his matches.”
Asmal tries to go to see her famous cousin play but was wary of going to the Bullring this week.
“The last time I was there, for the pink ODI last year, I had just found my seat, only to see him go out for a duck! It was my birthday (on Friday the 13th ) so I thought that maybe I should stay away,” she winced.
As it was, Hashim gave his cousin - and the rest of world cricket - an early birthday present, with a century that broke his recent run fast.
Mirroring the rhythm of his career, he started slowly, nervously even, before finding fluency and unfurling the
style and grace that has marked him as one of the modern game’s great artists. Asmal followed the knock with keen interest.
Amla’s original batting partner has been beaming all week, thinking back to those days of childhood dreams in the family home.
“I, and I know the rest of the family, too, am just so proud of the man that he has become. More than what he has achieved as a cricketer - which has been pretty amazing, too!”