Proteas

Amla: Biff surprised, Polly less so

Graeme Smith (File)
Graeme Smith (File)

Cape Town – There have been contrasting reactions from two prior, post-isolation Test captains of South Africa to Hashim Amla’s mid-series announcement at Newlands on Wednesday that he was stepping down from the post with immediate effect.

Long-serving last Proteas skipper Graeme Smith’s immediate reaction when probed in the SuperSport studio was: “I don’t know what to say ... surprised, really.

“(But) Hashim Amla is a classy man; he wants to make runs for South Africa. It is a tough thing to do right in the middle of a big series (against England). It’s not an easy job.”

Smith backs the revelation – confirmed soon after he offered his views on alternatives -- that Amla’s fellow senior player AB de Villiers would take over for the last two Tests in Johannesburg and Centurion.

“I would go for AB ... I think he wanted it initially anyway.”

But earlier captain and fast bowling all-rounder Pollock, a former colleague of Amla’s in the Dolphins fold before the latter switched to the Cape Cobras, was less taken aback by the news.

“I wouldn’t say shocked ... I did think at some stage he would relinquish. I don’t think it was that huge a desire (of Amla’s) to lead South Africa.

“Scoring runs is really what excites him, what gets his mojo going.

“It is great that he finished in the job by leading from the front in this (drawn) Test.

“I think he felt the pressure of the post. We’ll go back now to getting the best out of Hashim Amla.”

Ironically Amla didn’t too drastically dip in batting average terms during his 14-match tenure as full-time Test since mid-2014, as he still registered 894 runs at 49.66. 

His career average after Wednesday’s completed Newlands Test stood at 51.13 from 90 appearances.

But his batting stats while leader are slightly deceptive, as the lion’s share of his runs came in three big centuries – two of the double variety, including 201 in the latest Test – and he had an unusual struggle to register consistently solid scores in between those knocks.

Popular neutral critic Michael Holding, the West Indies pace legend, said the bottom line in Amla’s resignation was his statement during his exit press conference that he did not wish to “be a hindrance if I think someone else may do a better job for the (remaining) Tests”.

Holding added: “That’s the most relevant and important thing he said. He didn’t really want the job in the first place.

“I see no problem with (De Villiers) taking the mantle. It may contribute to him playing a bit longer (following recent reports that he was thinking of reducing his cricketing workload – Sport24). Hopefully the wicket-keeping is also history now for him.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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