Amla’s stash without the flash

2011-01-05 00:00

LAST year will be remembered for the small matter of the Fifa World Cup taking over our lives, but the South African cricketing fraternity was dominated by the bearded brilliance of a quiet, unassuming number three.

Hashim Amla feasted heavily — heck, greedily — in 2010, all the while gathering admirers around the world for the manner of his approach to the game and all its distractions.

The numbers themselves tell a compelling story, with 1 249 runs scored in conditions that varied from the heat of Nagpur to the drabness of Dubai.

The mise-en-scene may have varied, but the storyline­ was the same. When Amla got in, he didn’t bother getting out.

Five 100s were collected by Durban’s hottest property since the bunny chow.

And Amla’s hot streak was not confined to a few, heady months.

He made runs in January and he was still at it by year’s end.

His first 100 of the year was also his biggest, a career-best 253 not out against India in Nagpur. For whatever reason, Amla has reserved his finest fettle for the world’s best Test nation.

He collected another two centuries during the tour of India, as he displayed considerable powers of concentration and technical prowess on the dust bowls served up in the subcontinent.

But that is just the numbers talking.

Scorecards don’t have space for comments, but if they did they would note Amla­’s trance-like demeanour, which masked an insatiable appetite for runs.

His franchise coach — on the rare occasion that he was available for the Dolphins — said that Amla was one of the fiercest competitors in the game.

“He lives for the game and he is always trying to find ways to improve himself,” Graham Ford said.

Much-maligned when he first made the leap to the top pile in 2004 to 05, Amla has returned as a man at ease with his own, unique style.

His rubber-like wrists have reduced many a bowler to despair over the last year, and he has also upped the tempo when the situation demands it.

So much so, in fact, that he is now a crucial part of the World Cup plans, as he provides stability and precision at the top of the order.

He was South Africa’s premier ODI batsman in the calendar year, defying sceptics who said that he was one-dimensional. That same dimension saw him churn out runs at a rate that saw his one-day average nudge 60.

Not bad for a one-trick pony.

His exploits during the year saw him fêted at the annual awards for national players, as he greedily collected five major awards, including the coveted Player of the Year and Player’s Player of the Year.

It was just that kind of year.

Along the way, his name was thrown in the hat as a possible successor to Graeme Smith for the ODI side.

Although Johan Botha seems to be the favourite, Amla is certainly a future prospect, particularly in the longer format of the game.

The respect he commands in the change-room (and his burgeoning popularity) is down to his unflappable nature.

He comes across as taking everything in his stride, much like he does to late-swinging deliveries that get dispatched to the cover boundary.

He ended 2010 much like he started it, with a 100 against India in the first Test at Centurion.

His 50th Test at Kingsmead was not quite as memorable­, but even Amla is allowed to fail every now and then.

In the year 2010, he went from being burdened with the “South Africa’s first player of Indian descent” tag, to being simply regarded as one of the very best players in the game today.

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