Amla enjoying the captaincy
Johannesburg - The captaincy may have been forced on Hashim Amla by the unfortunate injury to AB de Villiers, but South Africa's 10th ODI captain said on Tuesday that he has grown to enjoy the role after his first two Pro20 matches in charge.
"I'm starting to enjoy the captaincy, I'm learning during games and I want to keep that attitude of always learning," Amla said at SuperSport Park on the eve of the first ODI against great rivals Australia.
Amla has been thrown into the deep end against the number one ranked country in ODIs, but he said the support of experienced players and former captains like Johan Botha and Graeme Smith made the job easier.
"There's a good core of players that I can bounce ideas off. And Johan is a fantastic cricketer, I value his cricket acumen and he has a good head on his shoulders when the pressure's on.
"I've played with Johan for a long time so we have a good relationship, and I try to consult him and Graeme too," Amla said.
The new ODI playing conditions and the death overs will be the two biggest challenges for Amla on the field.
There is a worrying lack of competition in the South African team when it comes to finishers with the ball and it seems inevitable that Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn will be saddled with the job again. Morkel conceded 20 runs in the final over of the last Pro20 match against Australia, while Steyn had some meltdowns at the death as the Cobras made an early exit from the Champions League in India.
"The death overs are probably the most tense time for me," Amla admitted. "But I found in the T20s that as long as the bowlers have a plan it's okay. You can't control everything and things aren't always going to go according to plan, so you can't take it to heart too much. It's basically damage control and Morne and Dale have done well for us, and Lopsy [Lonwabo Tsotsobe] too, even in the powerplay overs."
While the lack of specialist death bowlers is a worry, the South African attack does boast very good variety, with two off-spinners, two leg-spinners, a slow left-armer, two swing bowlers, a bouncy fast bowler and two left-arm seamers in the squad. Amla said this will serve them well when it comes to the new playing conditions, particularly the use of two balls and the batting/bowling powerplays having to be taken between the 16th and 40th overs.
"The two new balls will have a huge effect, as will not having a powerplay between the 10th and 16th overs, but the team is diverse enough to handle it. The bowlers have been doing well and we're very excited to see how the new rules play," Amla said.
Many litres of rain have fallen on SuperSport Park during previous internationals and clouds were once again gathering over Centurion on Tuesday, allowing for speculation as to whether batsmen or bowlers will hold sway in Wednesday's day/night match.
"It looks a good pitch, so that will make it tough for bowlers, but it's cloudy and if the ball swings then it will be tough for batsmen," Amla summarised.
The form of Smith has prompted as much speculation, but Amla was firmly behind his predecessor in the role of captain.
"Graeme actually made more runs than me in the twenty20s! He came off an injury and, in the last T20 there were a lot of signs that he was in good nick. In the 50-over game, you've got more time to build an innings and it's important that the openers set a base for the rest of the innings," Amla said.
Apart from the captaincy, there will obviously also be pressure on Amla, the number one batsman on the ICC ODI rankings, to make runs, especially in the absence of second-ranked De Villiers.