Cape Town – He would probably giggle with embarrassment if you told him this to his face, but Hashim Amla is very close to a landmark that would confirm him as one of the best one-day international batsmen of all time.
The ever-unassuming, ego-free Proteas stalwart has moved to within only 210 runs of 5,000 in the ODI format, and if he plays to roughly his statistical performance level in the five-match away series against Australia shortly, may get there during the course of these November assignments.
If he does, there is every chance he will become the player in the “club” sporting the best ever average; he is already on a sublime 54.43 from 98 ODIs (4,790 runs).
Just to put his average in clear perspective, the weightiest ODI runs-scorer in history, Indian maestro Sachin Tendulkar (18,426 in a monstrous 463 appearances) lags some 10 runs behind in average terms – 44.83 at the end of his career – although you have to make allowance for his incredible durability.
Second-placed Australian great Ricky Ponting (13,704 in 375 games) averaged 42.03, and Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya in third (13,430 in 445 games) had an average of 32.36.
Now-retired Jacques Kallis, South Africa’s record ODI run-getter -- seventh on the all-time list with 11,579 runs from 328 matches -- sported an average of 44.36.
Only four batsmen to have gone past the 5,000-run mark average 50 or more: India’s captain MS Dhoni (8,192 runs at 52.85), Amla’s team-mate and ODI skipper AB de Villiers (6,939 at 51.02), retired Aussie “finisher” Michael Bevan (6,912 at 53.58) and Virat Kohli (5,879 at 51.57).
But 31-year-old Amla is even more handsomely on course for another key, 5,000 runs-related landmark: fastest batsman to get there in innings terms.
Frankly, he is going to have to experience a slump of rare proportions if he is to be denied the achievement, as he has up to 18 knocks to find those remaining 210 runs for the record – even if he is dismissed every time, he would have to average a miserly 12 or thereabouts to fail.
That is because the landmark is jointly held by West Indies legend Viv Richards and current Indian strokeplayer Kohli, each having got there in 114 innings – Amla has thus far played 95 ODI knocks.
Crowd-pleasing compatriot De Villiers is among the top five of all time, having required 124 innings to reach 5,000.
Amla has scored 199 runs in five prior ODIs against Australia on their own turf, at an average of 49.75.
The first clash is at Perth’s fast and true WACA ground on November 14.
Both Amla and De Villiers, absolutely critical elements of the Proteas’ World Cup assault early next year, are sitting out the earlier three-match Twenty20 combat to refresh their minds and bodies for the ODIs between the current top two nations (SA now first) on the rankings.
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