There are several questions and just as many conspiracies doing the rounds after Hashim Amla resigned the Proteas Test captaincy. In an era dominated by spin doctors, Amla is one of a few good men. He is a real gentleman of the game and one of the greatest South African cricketers of all-time.
It struck me as absurd when so many people perceived his decision to have been sensational. What could have caused it? Was he forced out? Where to now for South African cricket? Jeepers, you’d swear it was Hansie Cronje 2000 all over again the way some folks were reacting.
It is well-known that Amla was a reluctant captain. There is a pattern that proves this when one looks at how he relinquished the leadership at the Dolphins more than a decade ago. Eventually Haroon Lorgat and the suits at Cricket South Africa (CSA) were able to persuade Amla to accept the captaincy.
Given his having skippered the Dolphins in the early 2000s as a young 20-something I had predicted back in 2006 that he would be a future Proteas vice-captain. My thinking at the time was that with Amla being more or less the same age as Graeme Smith, it was unlikely he would lead South Africa permanently. However Smith’s (in my opinion premature) retirement opened the door for “The Mighty Hash”.
It all started beautifully with a first series win in Sri Lanka since 1993 alongside routine triumphs over Zimbabwe and the West Indies. In 2015 the Proteas hardly played Test cricket but when they did they were dumbfounded and destroyed from Delhi to Durban. South Africa’s top six were in awful form in the calendar year with Amla actually leading the way with an average of around 22, nowhere near his career average which is upwards of 51.
People started talking. Amla himself says: ‘The decision was not made over the last couple of days; the decision was made at least two weeks ago, certainly after giving it a lot of thought.’ When asked out about that specific statement he retorted: ‘I said that I didn’t make my mind up two weeks ago. I said I’d been thinking about it two weeks ago; that’s what I said.’
Okay there is such a thing as not meaning what you say and saying what you did not mean. Former United States president Ronald Reagan once quoted “1941” instead of “1981”. And if the Great Communicator was capable of mixing his exact thoughts and the facts, then surely we can cut Amla some slack.
Nevertheless, if indeed this was Amla’s attempt at spin doctoring then what does that tell us about CSA? Why would they force the skipper out halfway through a Test series? Especially when the batsmen have finally come into form and the bowlers looked to have restored confidence on the final day with the real possibility that star strike bowler Dale Steyn could return for the next match in this series.
Maybe there is more to it and perhaps we will only find out when someone writes a book. For now, I am satisfied to accept Amla’s reasoning, knowing full well that he probably did not want the job in the first place. These 14 Tests in charge that brought four wins, as many defeats and six draws, will not taint his reputation. Amla is certain to go down in history as one of this country’s greatest ever players anyway.