Cricket South Africa CEO Haroon Lorgat announced Hashim Amla as the new national Test captain yesterday and then reflected that he was in the same position as current convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson 12 years ago when Graeme Smith was named as Proteas skipper.
While Lorgat suggested there weren’t many “quality captaincy choices” around when he was the selection convenor, things have changed dramatically in South African cricket in those dozen years and Amla, as universally respected and well-liked as any player, should have much more popular support behind him than Smith did in those tough initial years after the 2003 World Cup disaster and the shock of Hansie Cronje’s fall from grace.
Amla, the first player of colour to be appointed as full-time skipper, beat off strong challenges from AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis for the Test captaincy but such is the camaraderie and culture amongst the senior Proteas that both men have assured management that they are fully behind their new Test leader.
If Amla had the same sort of strong jaw as Smith did it would be hidden beneath his luxurious beard, which is also an apt metaphor for the differences in their captaincy styles.
While Smith’s brand of leadership was highly visible (and vital for the rebuilding of a demoralised team), Amla will be a calming influence, providing continuity and building on the strong systems already in place.
He may be softly-spoken, but Amla is certainly a strong character and the leadership he has shown in the changeroom will now become more obvious out in the middle of the action.
“This is a very exciting time. Hashim has been contributing in a big way and has had a massive impact as a senior player, and the captaincy will be an extension of what he already quietly does behind the scenes. His style will be different, but that will be refreshing,” national coach Russell Domingo said.
While promising to be his own man, Amla himself recognises that he doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel now that he’s in charge of the Test side.
“Graeme’s leadership added a lot of value and we can take that with us and carry it on. A lot of us have played together for many years now and I won’t forget about the other senior players – it will be a collective effort. The team has gelled extremely well and has been managed brilliantly. We’re a high-performing Test team, we’ve been the best in the world, so not too much needs to change.
“I’m not going to try and copy anybody, generally you’re not as successful if you do. It’s difficult to say what style of captain I’ll be, I want to just let it come out naturally. I’ll just be as natural as possible, use what intrinsically works for me,” Amla said.
Even Castle Lager will get in behind Amla, according to Lorgat, even though the devout Muslim does not wear any branding or associate himself with any alcohol sponsorship.
“Castle have been very supportive, they sponsor the team not any individual. We all know Hashim’s views very well and we will meet the obligations of our commercial partners, although we are happy that they are respectful of individual views,” Lorgat said.