South Africa’s new Test captain is well equipped for the job, and will lead the Proteas with zen-like focus.
The announcement of Hashim Amla as the Proteas Test captain today will see the national side enter a new era, characterised by a new ethos. Where Graeme Smith was big, brash and in your face, Amla will be quiet, calm and understated. Smith was successful playing to his strengths, and I believe Amla will see similar success if he plays to his.
The stylish batsman’s elevation to the post should be seen as a positive step forward for the Test side. Facing an uncertain future following the retirements of two stalwarts in Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, the Test team needs a leader who will not only be able to pull the side together in tough conditions, but who can keep them calm when the pressure inevitably begins to mount.
His first assignment is a two-Test series in Sri Lanka, a country where the Proteas haven’t won a Test series since 1993. It will be a baptism of fire for the rookie skipper, but he has the mental fortitude to face the task head-on.
Recall his triple century against England two years ago. In fact, recall any of his 21 Test centuries. Amla has a calm, focused demeanour on the field, and an ability to block out the rubbish like no one else in the game. His long innings have become legendary, a study in concentration that is unmatched in the game today. Add to that long hours under the helmet, waiting to snare a chance while fielding at short leg, and you have a man who is more than prepared for the task of being ‘on’ for an entire Test.
He is also lucky enough to have a core of senior players to lean on. The likes of AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Dale Steyn and Faf du Plessis will form a leadership group around Amla, and so when things do get tough, he will be confident of having a support structure in place, if needed.
The only concern, right now, lies in Amla’s ability to deal with the media attention that comes with leading the national side. He is a man who has always shied away from the spotlight, preferring to let his feats on the field do the talking for him. He won’t have that option now.
The captain is constantly bombarded by media requests, and fronts up to the press corp at the end of most days of a Test match. Negotiating that minefield will be relatively new to Amla, who in the past has generally been put in front of the cameras only when he, or the side, has had a good day. If he is to settle into the role, it will likely be the off-field duties that he will have to come to terms with quickest.
But I suspect Amla will most likely come up with a plan to make the transition as smooth as possible. He is not one to wilt under pressure, as we have seen throughout his career.