So, the weight of 174 ODIs, nearly 8,000 runs, 27 hundreds, a batting average of 49.27 and a slew of records counted in favour of Hashim Amla’s selection ahead of Reeza Hendricks for the World Cup, writes GARY LEMKE.
And rightly so. Much has been spoken and speculated about in the buildup to the announcement of South Africa’s 15-man squad for the World Cup. At the forefront has been who would be left out of the following trio at the top of the order: Amla, Reeza Hendricks or Aiden Markram. The latter had booked his place with a string of impressive recent big scores to make his selection automatic.
When it came to decision time, Hendricks’ name was missing from the 2019 version in England and Wales. Instead, the selectors have opted to send Amla in his place, with the remainder of the squad being fairly predictable, form being a key selection criteria.
However, those who punted the 36-year-old Amla over the 29-year-old Hendricks will feel vindicated. Amla has scored 803 runs at an average of 61.76 in England during his ODI career. Hendricks has featured in 18 ODIs, six of them outside of South Africa, but hasn’t played an international in England. And the Proteas play England, the favourites, in the opening match.
As the wise old owls will tell you, experience in English conditions, even if the pitches are likely to get drier and take more spin towards the latter stages of this World Cup, is essential. Again, Amla ticks that box, Hendricks doesn’t.
And what of recent form? Both played in the five-match home series against Pakistan in January. Hendricks scored 78 runs at an average of 15.6. Amla scored 215 runs at an average of 43.00. Amla then missed the series against Sri Lanka due to compassionate leave, and Hendricks produced totals of 1, 29, 4 and 8 for an average of 10.5.
Everything, based on statistics and experience, points to South Africa taking the right man to England for this World Cup.
Amla’s pedigree includes him being the fastest (barometer being fewest innings) to 1 000, 2 000, 3 000, 4 000, 5 000, 6 000 and 7 000 international runs – he now finds himself marooned 80 runs shy of 8 000 – the fastest to 25 career ODI hundreds, and only last year he hit his 27th career ODI in his 167th innings, another record. Virat Kohli, India’s run-making machine, got to that landmark needing two more innings than Amla.
Where South African couch potatoes were been getting it wrong, was saying that Amla has been off form and have pointed to other formats, like T20, to show that he’s the not man to take to his third World Cup. Forgetting that T20 is a different sport altogether and that averages count for nothing.
They had been quick to judge him hysterically, without taking into account what he brings to the team environment, another leader in the dressing room, that experience, reputation, and when push comes to shove he out-scored Hendricks rather convincingly in that series against Pakistan a few months ago. When the dreaded ‘choke’ word is invariably raised, he won’t break out in a cold sweat.
The view was that with Hendricks, Markram and Quinton de Kock at the top of the World Cup order, the Proteas will get off to a flyer and consistently get enough runs (if pushing a total) for the world’s strongest bowling attack, led by Kagiso Rabada, to defend. And the same theory would apply when chasing, as all three batsmen score quickly.
But wait, perceptions aren’t reality. In 18 ODIs Hendricks’ strike rate (runs per 100 balls) is 76.98. Amla’s is 89.22 from 174 ODI matches. Another myth exploded.
Would age be a factor, 29 versus 36? That goes out the window too, when you consider West Indies opener Chris Gayle is 39. Imran Tahir is 40, but we are talking batsmen here. All of which suggests to me that the Proteas have got this one right when opting for Amla over Hendricks.
Proteas World Cup squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Quinton de Kock (wk), Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, JP Duminy, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir, Dwaine Pretorius, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi.
Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images