There has always been something unexplainable about cricket in South Africa. Players whom you can’t help but love, performances you can’t help but laud, and personalities so cool and appreciable they can’t go unnoticed. South African cricket is known to produce many wonderful people on and off the field.
Shaun Pollock, Gary Kirsten, Allan Donald, Dave Richardson, AB de Villiers, Makhaya Ntini, and so on, the list is endless.
The ever-smiling, bearded personality that has for over years shouldered huge responsibilities opening the batting is at a stage where something is just not going right.
There’s just something about him that seems not in place.
8 ODIs, 216 runs and an average of 27 in 2018, has unfurled a Hashim Amla that’s not even moderately impressive. Finally, after playing 2 Tests and 2 ODIs, was Hashim Amla able to strike his first fifty-plus knock against Sri Lanka. Somehow, he got going and his team won.
But there seem to be some fundamental chinks in his armour. Here’s attempting to understand some of them.
The stance doesn’t look the same old. The runs have dried up. Well, by his usual high standards, they have. Many of us know that they have kind of just hidden somewhere and are bound to flow very soon.
If we may have the right to ponder what has gone wrong with Amla? If that sounds too interrogative or unfriendly, what is preventing him from reaching those big scores? His last century came 20 innings ago, a 132 against Bangladesh in October 2017. Post that knock which South Africa won 1-0 against Zimbabwe, they would win 2-1 against India and 3-1 against Australia, all at home.
They later travelled to Sri Lanka where they lost 2-0. Implicit in this tour would be Amla’s pitfalls, exacerbated a poor run in Tests.
Let us rewind back a little more to August 2016. He has played 27 Tests and 49 innings since. He has scored 1664 runs with an average of 34.66 during this period. Surely, it bears no testimony to the great player that he is. Add to that the fact that he’s made three centuries. If you are a strong critic, you might not be surprised to know that these centuries came against relatively weaker attacks of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. More often than not, he has looked patchy, and the composure he so characteristically brought to the crease has dwindled away somewhere, to say the least.
Is AB’s void announcing itself in different ways- we don’t know.
With Markram cementing his place as an opener alongside Dean Elgar, the management played Amla down the order to provide the squad with a great No. 3 batsman. The results, however, did not offer a pleasing sight. The season saw the rise of next-generation stars like Aiden Markram, Trevor Bavuma and Lungi Ngidi. However, the phenomenon called Amla quietly seemed to be on the verge of fading away.
He has fallen prey in ways one would not imagine him to. The shot selection seems to be of a man who is not at ease, and the manner of dismissals require profound explanation. The powerful drives and cuts do not stamp the same authority they once used to.
Did you notice, Amla’s strike rate, ever since arriving in Sri Lanka, has dipped and his average in ODIs- a healthy 50- in threat of spiralling down?
In an aura of AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn, two big superstars, Amla managed to keep his essence alive, through smiles and sheer class of batsmanship. With a player like him, a big score is just an innings away, and we as fans and spectators, are waiting for that to happen.
At 35, he is not getting any younger. Probably, time is running out fast before one can decipher. Be it the mental aspect of the game, the team management and the player itself together need to decode it so that the latter is able to call the shots once more. It seems like the work is well in progress. Having signed up for Hampshire earlier this year, he had three half-centuries and a century under his belt from seven innings. Well, an enterprising show may just be around the corner.
The raising of Amla’s bat is not a thing of the past; it exists in present too.
It’s just that the wait has got a bit too long.