Moving Hashim Amla to No 3 could solve the Proteas’ batting frailties, but would it be a ludicrous decision? Asks KHALID MOHIDIN.
Based on his career stats, there is no denying that Amla has been one of the world’s best openers for some time – and not only for his generation, but of all time. This is backed up by his all-time ODI ranking, as he sits comfortably in 10th spot with an all-time high ranking points tally of 901 on the ICC rankings. With a staggering 7,696 runs in 169 appearances (at an average of 49.65), Amla has become a vital cog in the Proteas set-up. His most phenomenal stat is that he has scored more centuries than any other batsman to have worn the green and gold and he sits proudly at No 4 among the all-time South African ODI run scorers.
Having earned his ODI debut a decade ago, the 35-year-old has struggled for consistency as of late, snatching a century and half-century wherever he can find one, while also avoiding the outrageous suggestions that he could be dropped, as some supporters have muttered. What is concerning is that his average has dropped to 40.35 in the last two years, and he has been experimenting with his stance and technique to find ways to be more stable at the crease and to stay in touch with the explosive Quinton de Kock, which is becoming more trying with age.
There is no question that he is the best opener that the Proteas have produced, having played all his matches in the No 1 or No 2 position except for his first two games, when he slotted in at No 3. However, is there a case for our bearded genius to now take up the high demands of No 3 on a permanent basis?
— SA Cricket magazine (@SACricketmag) September 18, 2018
With AB de Villiers departing, Amla is now the Proteas’ best ODI batsman. If you scan around at some of the best ODI teams in the world – India, England and Australia – their best batsmen hold down the No 3 spot – Joe Root, Virat Kohli and Steve Smith (before his ban). If the Proteas ever find themselves having an opening collapse, Amla still has the chance to express his best quality by using his exquisite stroke play and soft wrists to work the ball into the gaps. With De Villiers gone, the Proteas cannot afford to lose the best batsman in their lineup early in an innings.
The Proteas also have another natural opener in their midsts in Aiden Markram, who lifted the U19 World Cup trophy as captain of South Africa in 2014. There is no doubt that Markram has the backing of the selectors as the future SA captain, but why pile unnecessary pressure on the youngster by playing him out of position at No 3 or No 4, which is where he has batted in the majority of his 10 ODI matches to date?
Markram and De Kock compliment each other perfectly, and if they return to the Titans they would be able to continue to build their partnership understanding in franchise cricket. Markram is outstanding at facing pace bowling and scoring against the new ball, which was evident in his performances for the Test side and in last season’s limited overs cricket for the Titans.
In the role of protector, Amla’s experience could give the Proteas extra security behind an attacking duo of De Kock and Markram, allowing them to freely express themselves knowing that the best batsman in the side is waiting in the wings.
The idea may seem bizarre and carries some risk, but seeing as the Proteas have identified the next few series against Zimbabwe and Australia as a chance to experiment, why not try a top five of De Kock, Markram, Amla, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy?
POLL: Should Hashim Amla be considered as a No 3 batsman instead of an opener for the Proteas in ODI cricket?
Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images