Cape Town – They used to say that the one good thing about a
couple of failures by Hashim Amla was the near inevitability that he would
atone for them in a major way shortly afterwards.
That has been a hallmark of this devoted accumulator’s game
for the bulk of his 11 years as an international cricketer, and especially in
the period since his problematic first couple of seasons at the highest level.
A little like Jacques Kallis did after a lean start to his
own illustrious Proteas career, Amla suddenly exploded into action and, by and
large, has remained a smoking gun at the crease.
Until recently, that is.
Just as every aircraft will run into turbulence at some
stage of its service, and every marriage see its “blissfulness” tested, even
the very cream of batsmen can’t – and don’t -- come off every time.
Those of stout disposition shrug off the bouts of silly shot
selection, or the sublime catches that sometimes account for them, or the
occasional rank bad luck, as part and parcel of their trade and soon restore
Amla has also done that ... many times.
But over the last few months, the 32-year-old South African
Test captain has suffered a decline in fortune that stubbornly – and highly
unusually – just won’t seem to reverse itself.
When can you describe a wobble as having developed into a more
It is one of those subjective, “how long is a piece of
string?” type of quandaries, but statistically evidence is mounting
uncomfortably to suggest Amla has just shifted into warranting the latter description.
In all forms of cricket since mid-August, when he registered
a century (124) against New Zealand in the first one-day international at
Centurion, he has laboured to amass a further 230 runs in 13 turns at the
crease – all for his country – at an average of 17.69.
For someone who averages 52 in Tests, nearer 53 in ODIs and
51 in the first-class arena, that is a violently below-par return.
Just as uncharacteristically, he hasn’t managed even a
solitary half-century in the unproductive period, with a top score of 44.
The lengthy, current tour of India has been especially
unrewarding for him thus far, with a personal best of 37 across the five ODIs –
albeit that the visitors earned a brilliant 3-2 triumph – and total of 50 runs
across three innings in the Test series up to now.
At least you can say he got a high-calibre delivery from
slippery paceman Varun Aaron to send him back for seven in the first innings of
the current, rain-plagued second Test in Bangalore; certainly Amla could not be
accused of a Mohali-like, personally confessed “brain freeze” in this instance.
If the weather bucks up enough to facilitate Amla batting
for a second time – hopefully with his charges relatively safe from any
prospect of defeat by then – and work on rediscovering some of his famous touch
in preparation for the business end of the series, then it may prove a
much-needed turning point for the the skipper’s slightly perplexing fortunes.
Not to mention those of the stuttering world No 1-ranked
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