Cape Town – Considering the difference of 36 years, and the
much-altered general cricketing landscape, it is not exactly an
But I believe it is worthwhile, nevertheless, to weigh up the
hugely impactful effects two batsmen – Sir Vivian Richards and Hashim Amla –
had in seminal English summer tours for their respective international teams,
West Indies and South Africa.
Of course Amla’s 2012 visit to the Green and Pleasant Land isn’t
quite over yet: there is still the matter of three lingering Twenty20
internationals, starting at Durham on Saturday, before the Proteas pack their
bags for the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka.
Just how much of a role the bearded batting assassin plays
in the series remains to be seen, because there is probably a sound case for
offering him at least some rest and refreshment opportunity after his
plundering performances in the Tests and one-day internationals.
Richards, of course, never got to play T20 cricket as he
retired in 1991, but it is possible to measure the individual impacts he and
Amla made in the other two codes to English seasons where the main goal of the
overall raid –duly achieved by both the Windies and Proteas – was to clinch the
Back in the unusually sweltering summer of ’76, the West
Indies won the five-match Test portion 3-0 and the three-game ODIs by the same
In 2012, of course, the Test series was scandalously
restricted to three contests and there was an inevitably greater tally of ODIs
– five, although the first was abandoned due to rain.
South Africa inspiringly grabbed the Test series 2-0 and
came from 2-1 down to split the ODIs 2-2.
In 1976, the year that heralded the true arrival of the
“Master Blaster” from Antigua, a famously incendiary note was sounded in the
lead-up by England’s South African-born captain Tony Greig, who announced: “I
intend to make them grovel.”
It was in the thick of the apartheid era back in these
parts, of course, so the imagery Greig’s brazen statement evoked was obvious.
The cudgels were keenly taken up in response by a West Indies
side only considered as “emerging” at the time.
But in the form of fearsome pacemen like Andy Roberts and
Michael Holding but primarily by the virtually non-stop brilliance of Richards
at the crease, the Caribbean marauders instead sparked a new era of iconic
The dashing right-hander was 24 then, and only some 18
months into his Test career, but it was undoubtedly the tour that established
his legend and would remain his best personal series by some distance.
Richards amassed 829 runs in four Tests (he missed one
through injury) and only seven innings, at an average of 118.42, his series
culminating in a career-best 291 in the fifth encounter at The Oval.
So maybe it is fitting that, in 2012, Amla launched his own
assault and battery on English bowling at the very same venue (unusually
staging an opening Test), with that withering 311 not out that bettered
Richards’ score and now stands as his and South Africa’s most productive ever
Like the West Indian all those years before him, Amla never
really let up as the weeks went by, not only sharing man-of-the-Test-series
with Matt Prior but then being top scorer for the Proteas in all four completed
Across the two series, the KwaZulu-Natalian compiled 817
runs in nine innings at an average of 116. Yes, decidedly Richards-like.
The ever-unassuming Amla is much more of a caresser than Richards,
brasher in personality and more inclined toward “clobbering” when he was in a
particularly bellicose mood, but what is clear is that regardless of how their
styles have differed, they have indelibly stamped themselves as season-specific
dominators in the country that first brought us cricket.
Just as Richards was generously lauded for his exploits
there in ’76, Amla has been able to bask in the rightful glow of effusive
English applause whenever he has headed back for the pavilion, job so
For the record, Richards scored 8,540 runs in 121 Tests at
50.23; Amla has thus far achieved 4,946 in 62 at 49.95, so they could be said
to be pretty much level-pegging. Amla’s ODI average, meanwhile, stands at a
particularly swollen 59.55, to Richards’ 47.00, though the latter’s admittedly
in an era where conditions were not nearly as tailor-made for batting carnage.
Perhaps the major point of this article is to suggest just
how nearby Hashim Mahomed Amla lurks to the illustrious company of Isaac Vivian
Alexander Richards, named one of five Cricketers of the Century in 2000, let’s
not forget ...
Amla in Tests
1st Test, The Oval: 311 not out
2nd Test, Leeds: 9 and 28
3rd Test, Lord’s: 13 and 121
Amla in ODIs
2nd ODI, Southampton: 150
3rd ODI, The Oval: 43
4th ODI, Lord’s: 45
5th ODI, Nottingham: 97 not out
Richards in Tests
1st Test, Nottingham: 232 and 63
3rd Test, Manchester: 4 and 135
4th Test, Leeds: 66 and 38
5th Test, The Oval: 291
Richards in ODIs
1st ODI, Scarborough: 119 not out
2nd ODI, Lord’s: 97
3rd ODI, Birmingham: 0