Hashim Amla: Taking South African cricket to new heights

Suyash Srivastava

After VVS Laxman’s shocking retirement, cricket now has limited wristy players. Leading from the front is Hashim Amla. While he has been equally brutal towards all opponents, his recent knocks against England have helped the Proteas leapfrog them as the No. 1 side, both in Tests and ODIs.

On Tuesday, after showcasing his brilliance in another wonderful innings (150), Amla was caught at short third man by Tim Bresnan just two balls before the scheduled quota of overs. The crowd took a deep breath, they all stood on their feet for the fourth time for the great man as Hashim Amla walked towards the dressing room with his head held high, something which he is quite used to by now.

In the previous delivery he had humiliated Finn by working a yorker towards backward point for a boundary that took him to 150. Most of the spectators and his teammates didn’t even get back to their seats before they willingly joined the chorus of the crowd to admire his individual brilliance once again. It was the end of another spectacular innings, everybody applauded the calm man for entertaining them. The deflated English bowlers couldn’t help but join in. Amla’s knock had 16 fours that saw him become the fastest player to reach 3,000 runs in ODIs, a feat he achieved in 57 innings as compared to 69 innings of West Indian legend Vivian Richards.

Amla, who started his career as a Test specialist has now become of one of the most dangerous batsmen in world cricket and an integral part of the Proteas team. He is currently the No. 2 batsman in Tests, trailing Kumar Sangakkara by 23 points who is on top with 892 points. The 29-year-old is the No.1 ODI batsman at the moment. The stylish right-hander is yet to make a mark in the T20 format as he has played just 38 of them, but sooner or later he will excel in that as well.

Watching Amla play, I am often reminded of Pakistan’s Mohammad Yousuf. And yes it’s not just because of the beard. Yousuf was very good with his cover drives and could flick the ball from anywhere using his wrists. So can Amla. But the South African has shown a lot more promise, a lot more patience and is likely to become one of the finest admonishers the game has ever seen.

Amla has a unique gift which differentiates him from other talented batsmen of the modern era – ‘anticipation’. It allows him to adjust and play shots according to the length. If he has premeditated to go for a cover drive, no matter how hard the bowlers try, most of the times he ends up playing the shot. If the bowler adjusts his length, Amla works the ball on the leg-side. He often shuffles during field restrictions, not as much as Mathew Hayden used to, but enough to demoralise a fast bowler. With his wristy strokes, it is impossible to set a field for him.

His unbeaten triple ton against England at The Oval in the recently concluded Test series was a perfect example of his stroke-making technique. On several occasions he shuffled whenever the ball was within his reach on the off-side and played some elegant strokes. England bowlers could do nothing but to wait and pray for him to make an error, which he never did.

It was the same England squad which humiliated the Indian team on their home soil and also the Australians with the same pace attack. But Amla made a huge difference. The best part is that the English bowlers didn’t bowl too many bad deliveries. It was Amla’s shots which made them look like a bunch of ordinary cricketers.

The Proteas have conquered the numero uno position in all three formats of the game. There are the likes of Kallis, Smith and de Villiers who have helped them achieve that feat but Amla’s contribution has been monumental. 150, 13, 121, 9, 28, 311* – his scores in the last six innings are decent enough to prove the fact.

He is one of those rare cricketers in world cricket who are equally comfortable in all the formats. He is aggressive at the same time balanced in his approach while playing shots. Amla is certainly the most dangerous batsman at the moment in world cricket and his consistency is something which has allowed his teammates to play their natural game, something which has led to the meteoric rise of the South African team.

The Proteas like most of the times are looking invincible. They are a bunch of brilliant cricketers who have the top rankings in all formats of the game. In spite of all the talent, the only feat missing from their glittering CV is a World Cup victory. The ICC T20 World Cup will begin in quite a while. Their collective performance along with Amla’s unperturbed determination might create history. Even if they don’t, it won’t stop a brilliant cricketer like Hashim Amla from taking cricket to new heights.

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