Sport

Cricket: Proteas dominate rankings – pity they’ll hardly be watched

By Ant Sims 6 February 2013

South Africa, on a team and individual level, is all over the ICC rankings like white on rice. It’s another notch in the Proteas’ belts as they continue to become one of the most enchanting teams of our generation. What a shame it is, then, that so few will get to watch them in the next few months. By ANT SIMS.

Much has been written about Hashim Amla over the last 12 months, from his silky wrist work to his zen-like composure on the field. Amla’s 2012 was a humdinger – he racked up the runs like quicksilver, never losing his classy swagger.

And it looks as though the hype won’t slow down any time soon. Right now, the year isn’t even in full swing yet, and already long pieces of prose are being churned out about The Bearded One. And with good reason, Your Honour: in the three Tests he has played this year, he’s scored 287 runs at an average of 95.66, and he’s now become the number one batsman in the world in to the ICC player rankings. Amla also heads the top of the ODI batting rankings – which makes him the first player since Ricky Ponting in 2007 to achieve that feat.

He’s never one to boast, though. Speaking to the media, Amla humbly acknowledged the accolade.

“I am surprised and happy with my position as the number one ranked Test batsman. However, I’m also mindful that rankings change quite regularly,” said Amla.

The South African Test team has had an incredible 12 months. Their unbeaten streak now stretches 13 matches, and they have series wins in New Zealand, England and Australia under their belts, as well as a crushing win over the Black Caps on home soil. Amla believes that the team’s success over the last year is down to solid contributions from everybody in the side.

“It’s been a great year for our squad, and to be honest I still don’t think that I am the best batsman in our team. What has been most pleasing for us has been the all-round contribution from everyone in the squad that has been the main reason for our success over the last few years,” he explained.

Amla is right, of course. While there are still one or two uncertain spots in the team – such as the positions of Dean Elgar and Jacques Rudolph – the rest of the side has had an illustrious year. Dale Steyn is at a high point in his career, at the top of the bowling rankings, and Vernon Philander sits second, while Jacques Kallis tops the all-rounders list. Philander, mind you, also sits eighth on the list of all-rounders. AB de Villiers is fourth on the list of top 10 Test batsmen, and Morne Morkel is ninth on the bowlers’ list.

It’s a pretty impressive bunch of players who have done exceptionally well to harness their skills and crush their opposition mercilessly. There might have been a hiccup here and there, especially where complacency crept in, but thankfully for them, there has always been somebody in the side to salvage their cause and rescue the team when they need it most.

“Needless to say, it is always easier to be at the top of your game and successful when you are part of a winning team,” Amla added. “Dale and Jacques have been tireless workhorses for the Proteas and continue to consistently put in quality performances for our team. It is no wonder that they are at the top of the bowling and all-rounder rankings.”

With such a fierce line-up at their disposal and the team being in such good form, it’s perhaps a pity that South Africa’s Test schedule has been curtailed this season after Sri Lanka decided to postpone the Tests which were meant to be played later this year.

Instead of watching South Africa try to extract revenge for the last time they lost an away series, fans will have to settle for a limited overs series. Following that, the side will travel to the United Arab Emirates to play Pakistan in a two-Test series, and then host India for a three-match series and seven one-day internationals.

While it’s understandable – from a commercial perspective – that Tests cannot rule the schedule, it’s a pity that a generation blessed with such a great team will only get to watch them in action another six times this year.

The Future Tours Programme is, of course, planned and scheduled way in advance, but surely there’s room for a bit of nipping and tucking when a team finds themselves in a position of such glorious allure? One hopes. DM

Photo: South Africa’s Hashim Amla plays a shot during the second day of their first cricket test match against Pakistan in Johannesburg, February 2, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

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