Hashim Amla needs to show some form in the Proteas’ warm-up matches ahead of their World Cup opener against England, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
Under normal circumstances you would pick Hashim Amla in your team, every day of the week and twice on Sundays. Such is his stature in the world game, and his importance to the Proteas’ cause.
His record-breaking One Day International stats are right up there with the best in the business, as he has amassed 7,910 runs at an average of just under 50 in 174 matches. His World Cup record is also decent, having scored 639 runs at an average of 42.60 in the 2011 and 2015 editions.
However, the 36-year-old Amla is battling for form ahead of the start of the 2019 World Cup in England. It’s a battle to restore to us the batsman whose broad bat has slayed some of the best attacks around the world. The batsman whose iron wrists make a mockery of anything on his pads. The batsman who hardly raises a sweat in the heat of battle.
Last week Proteas captain Faf du Plessis said that only players who are in form would play in the World Cup opener against the tournament hosts at The Oval on 30 May. The team will not be picked on sentiment.
If that is the case, Amla should not make the starting XI, especially after Aiden Markram has continued his excellent form in English county cricket. Neither would speedster Dale Steyn, who has been nursing a shoulder injury, and has been cleared to play in the tournament, but is still a major doubt for the opening match.
Amla, who decided to withdraw from the domestic T20 competition after a poor run of scores, has been working hard in the nets with batting coach Dale Benkenstein to try and find his mojo ahead of the warm-up matches against Sri Lanka on Friday and the West Indies on Sunday.
Du Plessis hopes Amla gets some much-needed time at the crease during these matches. Certainly, the whole country would love to see the Mighty Hash of old in what is probably going to be his last 50-over World Cup in the green and gold.
His experience will be vital in a tournament where you can’t afford to lose too many matches. Only four teams make it to the knockout rounds, so every game will have its own little pressures and challenges.
‘Hashim has been to tournaments‚ he understands what it is like to play on that stage, which is important to have,’ Du Plessis said over the weekend.
‘He is calm‚ composed and even if he doesn’t play a game, the knowledge and the experience that he will share with a player like Aiden Markram is going to be massive.
‘He will talk him though processes of how to get through those first ten overs in English conditions, because he has played a lot of county cricket there‚ his experience is vital for us as a group.’
But, if Amla doesn’t come through those warm-up matches with some runs under the belt, the selectors need to be brave and let him ease himself into the World Cup with matches against the ‘smaller countries’ to try and get his form back.
England are in red-hot form, and the Proteas can’t go into that match with a player who isn’t playing well or is short of confidence. The same goes for Steyn, who needs to be fit and ready to fire once the business end of the tournament comes around.
All South Africans want to see Amla and Steyn have one more crack at World cup glory on the field. But there is no room for sentiment at a World Cup. The best team must play. The fittest team must play.
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