No-frills-no-fuss Hashim Amla on getting the job done

2014-07-20 06:00

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Hashim Amla made his debut as test captain this week. Mike Haysman caught up with him.

Q: You spoke about, well before the one-day series, making sure that you concentrate on the one-dayers rather than think ahead to the test matches. Was that simple enough to do?

A: During the one-day my mind did go towards the test matches and preparing as captain how we wanted to kind of flow into it. One-day cricket’s a massive thing for this year, especially the build-up to the World Cup, so I really felt it was my duty to give that my hundred percent as much as I can. Focus, try and back AB [de Villiers] as much as possible on the field with my background as a vice-captain. So, that kind of took precedence whenever I started thinking about test captaincy, and, ja, my mind started going into preparation for test cap – where I tried to just reign myself back in a bit and let things take their course and put things first. First things first.

Q: How much does it help you, Hashim, that you’ve got a couple of hundreds and a forty-eight leading into the test match?

A: No, it does help. You always want to have some runs behind you before going into a big series. You know, the one-day games, the one-day competition, the one-day series rather, was quite intense. There was a lot of ups and downs within the first one, within the second one, and I think getting runs, there were a few of us that got runs. It really helps taking some sort of batting form into the test matches.

Q: Have you thought ahead of you walking out in front of the team, figuratively, that is, as in going out ahead and being the captain and the figurehead? Or don’t you think about such things?

A: Well ... that much I haven’t thought too much about. Walking out in front, and that kind of [symbolism] to be honest. It doesn’t really interest me a hell of a lot. The fact that captain means that you’re going to be ... calling the shots on the field. Whatever’s off the field, you know, that’s no issue, but on the field it’s trying to lead the troops as best as I can as fortunately I’ve had a lot of experience now after ten years ... Graeme [Smith] was fantastic as captain so we had a lot of learning from him as well. But for me, it’s just about getting onto the field and leading the boys in the best possible manner. I don’t want to think too much about the frills and fuss that come with it because at the end of the day, it’s about getting onto the pitch, doing what needs to be done, and trying to be as effective as possible.

Q: The separation of roles, you spoke of Russell [Domingo] dealing with the preparation of players and so forth, but as captain is it fair to say that you now are also involved in how the team prepares for, well, the test matches, the challenge as it were?

A: We’re trying to structure the training sessions so that everybody has the best ability to prepare. Russell handles that probably more than anything, I’m just there to facilitate a little thing here and there. I think as captain you can’t get too involved in guys’ preparation. I mean there’s only a basic blueprint that you will put together, as, what needs to be done in Sri Lanka, whatever experience we have had, put that on the table, and guys take whatever they can from that. And in their own preparation, these are men we’re talking about. Guys who have done exceptionally well at test level and domestic level. Guys who have come in so they know what needs to be done. It’s never about chaperoning them too much. It’s about giving the guys space and allowing them to grow and, you know, learn by themselves in a way. We as the captain, the coach, senior guys, can put things on the table and nurture guys as much as we can but at the end of the day it’s guys, grown men we’re talking about who are really serious about putting [on] big performances for the country so we allow them to do that.

Q: And is that a Hashim Amla philosophy, and I’m not just coining Hashim Amla philosophy because it might just get out there and you know how it goes. “Hashim Amla philosophy” that’s not what I’m saying. But I’m trying to figure out whether that’s how you’ve kind of learned things, thinking about where you’ve started, the middle path, and now, ten years later, as the experienced guy?

A: Well, it does differ for everybody. I’ve just felt, with the current group of guys we’ve got, there are a lot of guys who play a lot of cricket together, so, you don’t need to get involved in their preparation. These guys can handle themselves, and they have handled themselves over the last few years. The younger guys definitely will have as much support and value to them as possible, but also allow them to grow ... I just feel it’s a natural thing to do ...

Q: You spoke of your relationship with Russell Domingo. How important is that going to be and can you describe that relationship for us?

A: Well, it’s probably better you asked AB [de Villiers] or somebody else who had a longer relationship in terms of captaincy or coach. But the coach kind of looks after certain things and the captain also looks after certain things. There’s a merger in between, I can’t exactly explain the relationship between the captain and the coach and that varies for every coach and every captain. So it’s still early days for me. Let’s see how that [transpires].

Q: Do you think of difficulty from a batting perspective? Do you think of difficulty or do you visualise that you’re just going to succeed?

A: Well no, certainly I think about the tough situations we’re going to face here. Sri Lanka is probably one of the tougher areas of the world to go to and to play test cricket. So we do think of that first step we could possibly encounter. As a team we do acknowledge that and we do contemplate that because you gotta have a strategy in place. So yeah, you do think about it personally, but more for finding and getting a strategy to kind of overcome it.

Q: You seem like you’re talking about the team?

A: No, for me as well. Sorry, obviously, I am, I said to you, from a batting perspective you do kind of visualise yourself in difficult circumstances with the goal of finding a plan to get out of it. So that’s basically what my thinking is. I’m just trying to get it into the team as well.

Q: Okay. AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and then yourself, there are the three of you as captains ... How’s that relationship going to pan out? What do you think about the three of you being in one space?

A: Well, we do have a very good relationship. I mean the one-days, all contributing, however, we can and we give each other space wherever needs be. It is a delicate situation, there’s no doubt about it, and three captains in the same team but I think we’re really fortunate because there are mature guys in the team that handle that kind of difference. AB comes with his flavour, Faf with his, perhaps me with mine. It’s something exciting for the team as well.

Q: Look ahead [to Sri Lanka] have you pictured walking out that first time?

A: Well I’ll probably be sweating underneath the blazer (laugh). That one you need to have on when you toss, so I’ll be sweating there. But, no I haven’t visualised it. It’ll happen when it happens, man. There’s no use thinking about things so far ahead. Let things come, let’s deal with it as it transpires and find a way when we need to. So, ja, I’m looking forward to that occasion, and hopefully I’ll win the toss, but, for whatever happens, it’s an honour and a privilege just to be involved in this kind of rank.

Q: Well, okay. You wait, let it come to you, and deal with it when you get there. Let’s hope that it goes really well. Thanks for chatting to us, Hash.

A: Thank you very much.

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