Hashim Amla leads South Africa into new era as first non-white captain

Graeme Smith stood down in March after holding the post for more than a decade

The South Africa cricket team will make history this week, in a quiet way, when they take the field for the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle. For the first time the country that was for so long shamed by its racist apartheid regime will be led by a full-time non-white captain in Hashim Amla.

The 31-year-old batsman has a stiff task ahead, needing to win both Test matches to regain the top spot in the ICC rankings after South Africa were overtaken by Australia after the latter’s Ashes whitewash during the winter.

He will hope he can continue with his good form with the bat after taking on the new responsibility, having impressed for Surrey early in the season and scored two centuries in the recent one-day series in Sri Lanka that South Africa won 2-1.

Amla, as is his custom on and off the field, was playing it straight on the eve of the series, saying: “The one-dayers have given the team a lot of confidence and a lot of belief of winning here, even though Test cricket is a largely different game. We’ve got an experienced bunch of guys and it has been a lot easier to focus.”

Amla has some big shoes to fill, quite apart from all symbolic considerations. He takes over from Graeme Smith, who stood down in March after holding the post for more than a decade. Smith was captain for more Tests than any other player in the history of the game, 109, and achieved the best record among all captains with 53 wins – ahead of Australia’s Ricky Ponting (48).

Ashwell Prince has previously stood in for Smith as his country’s first non-white skipper but only for two Tests when Smith was injured.

The build-up to the series has been overshadowed by the announcement that another of the great leaders, Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene, would be retiring from Test cricket. But he has not gone yet and the elegant batsman remains a formidable obstacle in the way of South Africa’s hopes of regaining the No 1 ranking.

Sri Lanka’s current captain, Angelo Mathews, denied that his team had an advantage because of the tourists’ change of leadership. “Changing the captain doesn’t really matter because they’ve still got those players in the team,” he said.

“They’re a very strong team to beat. They’ve lost to us in the past but they’ve played some really good cricket in the recent past so we can’t be complacent.”

However, following the retirement of Smith and also the legendary all-rounder Jacques Kallis, as well as concerns over a knee injury to AB de Villiers, there will be added pressure on Amla to score heavily in the top order. He has described his new role as “an honour and a privilege”, though he has shied away from responsibility in the past, having stood down the post of deputy to De Villiers in limited-overs cricket.

Indeed, De Villiers might well have landed the Test job if the selectors were not worried by the fact that he has to combine wicketkeeping duties with being a top-order batsman himself.

Amla is known as one of the quiet men of the dressing room. A devout Muslim, he will be allowed to continue wearing a shirt without the sponsor’s logo – Castle Lager – which runs counter to his religious beliefs.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home