Amla form still a major concern for Proteas as World Cup looms

Hashim Amla (Gallo Images)
Hashim Amla (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Regardless of what happens between now and the 2019 World Cup in England, which is likely to be the 'Mighty Hash's' swansong on the international stage, Hashim Amla will go down as one of the greatest batsmen that South African cricket has ever produced. 

The decline over recent months, however, cannot be ignored. 

While the Proteas have not played Test cricket since July when they lost 2-0 in Sri Lanka, Amla is looking out of sorts in all formats. 

His Mzansi Super League (MSL) campaign came to an end with a second-ball duck for the Durban Heat against the Tshwane Spartans on Wednesday.

Dropped mid-way through the competition, Amla carded scores of 15, 24, 12, 0, 4, 16 and 0 for a tournament average of just 10.1

In his last 10 Test innings, meanwhile, Amla has scored 299 runs at an average of 29.9 while his last Test century came all the way back in October, 2017 against Bangladesh. 

Remarkably, Amla has also amassed 299 runs in his last 10 ODI innings for the same average of 29.9.

Those returns, for a man of his obvious pedigree and ability, do not add up. 

Every player goes through dips in form, but Amla is not any player. He is supposed to be special, and he is supposed to be the reliable performer that the Proteas can always lean back on, regardless of format. 

Amla's next assignment for South Africa will come in the longest format when the Proteas take on Pakistan at Centurion in the Boxing Day Test. 

It is probably the best possible scenario for the out-of-sorts former skipper to find himself in.

Amla needs time at the crease, and the Test stage will give him an opportunity to fight his way back into form without the relentless pressure of scoring quickly. 

With a squad of just 13 named for those three Pakistan Tests, Amla can only be replaced by the uncapped Zubayr Hamza if things do not go well. 

He will, in all certainty, play all of those matches and the hope will be that he comes good before the start of a crucially important five-match ODI series. 

The Proteas have just 10 ODIs left between now and the 2019 World Cup, and the race for places in that 15-man squad is reaching its climax. 

By the time the ODI series gets underway, Amla will hope to have has found his touch again after hours spent at the crease in the Test matches. 

His partnership with Quinton de Kock at the top of the order is considered one of South Africa's biggest strengths in their attempt to win a first ever World Cup. 

If Amla continues to struggle, though, the Proteas do have other options. 

Reeza Hendricks has been one of the standout players in the MSL and looks to be in the form of his life.

If Amla is fit, regardless of form, he plays. That has always been the rule when it comes to megastars and match winners of that ilk.

It is a slippery slope, though, and the bad form has lingered for long enough now to spark some questions over whether Amla's best years are behind him. 

It is a road that Faf du Plessis, Ottis Gibson and the Proteas brains trust will want to avoid going down at all costs. 

In all likelihood, there is no need to panic. The best players bounce back time and time again and prove their critics wrong.

They are always one knock away from finding form.

For Amla, that knock cannot come soon enough. 

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ... 

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