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
Tuesday 15 July 2014
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.
Paul Scholes: Manchester City paid the price for not dealing with Barcelona's Sergio Busquets
Arsenal vs Monaco: Theo Walcott 'involved in spat' with fans after Champions League defeat
It's time to stop the 'small club' jibes after Chelsea signed £200m Yokohama deal
Paul Scholes: Jose Mourinho's attempt to influence football's decision-makers is not working. In fact, it may have backfired
After record-breaking £5.136bn Premier League TV deal, why are Everton the only British club to win in Europe?
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 5 Fearne Cotton quits Radio 1 after ten years for 'family and new adventures'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East