From not being seen as ‘one-day cricket material’, to being on course for yet another ODI record, Hashim Amla is the heartbeat of the South African batting line-up. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
For a player who was thought to be more of a Test specialist than a limited overs player, Hashim Amla sure knows how to rack up the runs in the one-day format. Already the holder of the record for fastest to 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 runs in the one-day game, Amla is on course to become the fastest to 5,000 runs in ODIs, too.
Currently 210 runs away from the landmark and having played just 98 games (and 95 innings), Amla is well on course to beat the jointly held record by Sir Vivian Richards and Virat Kohli, who both achieved the feat in 114 innings.
Even Amla’s strike-rate is comparable to some of the best in the business. An average strike-rate of 88.60 is on par with MS Dhoni’s 89.28 and Virat Kohli’s 89.85. Both players are regarded as being among the best in the world, and while Amla might not be as flash as them, he still gets the job done just as well.
With five one-day internationals against Australia coming up, Amla would have to hit one of the worst slumps of his career to miss out on notching up the record. Equally impressive about Amla is his batting average. He currently tops the list of full-member nations with the highest ODI average in the history of the game, averaging 54.43 in his career. Just once in his career has Amla averaged below 40.00 in a calendar year: that happened in 2013, when he averaged 38.09.
His average for 2014 is currently 61.33 in 13 matches and he’s already tallied up 736 runs, the third-highest in a calendar year over the course of his career. But cricket is a team sport and as an opener, Amla has the responsibility to set the foundation for the rest of the South African innings.
The fact that he features in three of South Africa’s five most fruitful ODI partnerships since January 2012 is testament to that. His opening partnership with Quinton de Kock has blossomed, with the pair totalling 1,321 runs together in 24 innings, at an average of 55.04, with five century and four half-century stands. His second most successful batting partner is AB de Villiers, with the pair scoring 1,148 runs together at an average of 82.00, with four hundred and four fifty-run partnerships. Over the course of his career, Amla has been one of South Africa’s most consistent batsmen in one-day cricket, yet he is not often referred to as being an ODI ‘legend’.
In a team littered with pragmatic batsmen, Amla’s more classic approach is sometimes overlooked. That’s not because he is not valued as much as his teammates, but because he goes about his business in such a casual manner.
Blessed with the silky wrists and grace that are normally reserved for those who plied their trade on the sub-continent, Amla is not your typical South African batsman. While there are many who are talented, few from the modern era are as classic as Amla. His ability to remain cool and calm when being battered by some of the world’s fastest bowlers is just another notch in his belt. The numbers tell one story, but it’s Amla’s zen that will make him one of South Africa’s most valuable players heading into the 2015 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia.
As a one-day outfit, South Africa have grown exponentially in stature over the last 12 months. They are now ranked number one in the format and if things continue to go as well as they have, they will be in the top three come the world tournament. However, Amla insists the team is undeterred by this.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think anyone has mentioned it, it hasn’t been a major motivator for us,” he said before South Africa sealed top spot.
“You obviously want to get to the World Cup within the top three to give you a gauge of what your chances are in a different sort of way. Being number one would be great but at the moment we are sticking to a good plan of winning as many as we can and taking each match with the importance that it has.”
South Africa begin their five-match ODI series against Australia 14 November, following three T20s, also against Australia. DM
Photo: South Africa’s Hashim Amla hits out during the second one-day international cricket match against England at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, England August 28, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown