There was an element of irony when Hashim Amla suddenly announced his resignation halfway through the Test series against England.
Three England captains, Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss, all resigned after taking a battering by the Proteas. Graeme Smith became known as the ‘Captain-Slayer’. None had survived a tour under him.
Hussain and Vaughan have now come out in in sympathy and support for Amla, who reversed the roles on Wednesday.
‘I think it was brave of him to go now, after doing so well with the bat at Newlands and almost pulling off a remarkable victory,’ wrote Hussain in his Daily Mail column. ‘He could have thought to himself, “Actually, this isn’t so bad … I might just stick it out a bit longer”. But I think Amla realised captaincy just wasn’t for him. It didn’t sit comfortably on his shoulders.’
Hussain revealed the questions that troubled him before he quit, and which Amla would have considered: ‘You ask yourself: First, is it doing you any good as a person? Secondly, how is it affecting your batting? And most importantly, would your team be better off if you stood down?
‘It wasn’t doing me any good either as a player or as a person, and I felt I had taken the team as far as I could. I had nothing left in the tank.’
Michael Vaughan said in the Daily Telegraph that he respected Amla for taking a tough decision when he did: ‘He could have dragged it out for the rest of the series but he has gone out on a high having saved the team from a defeat that would have ended their chances of winning the series.
‘South Africa will be stronger for this decision. When you have a captain that is not really enjoying the job or comfortable in the role it can infect the dressing room. But now South Africa have a leader who desperately wants the job. A new captain can make an instant impact and there is still plenty of life left in this series.’
Both Hussain and Vaughan wonder if the lifting of the burden, after he decided to quit, had not contributed to his supreme batting performance at Newlands after a year-long slump.
‘I am sure it is why he looked so much more relaxed when he went out to bat,’ said Vaughan. ‘His mind was made up and he could concentrate on batting. He appeared agitated at the crease in Durban. But something clicked in Cape Town. He was calm again and looked in control.
‘When your mind is turning over about the captaincy, particularly if you have just taken a battering in the field, it is very hard to watch the ball and react. But he knew he had given up the job and it will have felt like huge weight off his shoulders.’
Added Hussain: ‘His impressive showing with the bat in this match might owe something to the fact that he knew he was about to resign, as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.’
Nasser Hussain: Stepped down as England captain after the drawn 2-2 series at home to the Proteas in 2003.
Michael Vaughan: Quit as captain after two Test defeats and a draw at home against the Proteas in 2008. He missed the fourth Test, which England won.
Andrew Strauss: Quit after losing the three-Test series at home 2-0 in 2012, losing No 1 status in the process.