Cape Town – The mini-slump: even the greatest of the Test
greats, a certain Don Bradman, experienced this phenomenon to a moderate degree
He of the career average of 99.94 didn’t score centuries,
doubles and trebles all the time; cricket is a leveller for all comers.
The Don proved his “mortality”, if you like, by once going
11 innings in Tests for Australia without a three-figure effort to show, an
unusually lean stint by his giddy standards stretching from mid-January 1933 to
July 1934, when he “woke up” with the hardly insignificant knock of 304 against
England at Leeds.
Nobody – anywhere -- belongs in the same league, but Hashim
Amla is a globally respected, weighty accumulator of the modern game in its
various, expanded formats, and right up there statistically with those plying
their trade in the same generation as he is.
You could say the Proteas captain (Test career average still
a formidable 52.48) is going through a personal dip in an otherwise prosperous international
He will enter the decisive second Test against Bangladesh in
Dhaka from Thursday (05:30 start, SA time) hardly in a crease-hogging habit,
even if he may well not feel that he is especially out of nick – he wouldn’t be
the first or last batsman to be puzzled by that conflicting dynamic. Mother
Cricket, and all that.
Yet it would be an opportune time for him to recapture that
known, dominating tendency, as the cool-headed right-hander undoubtedly will
before very long.
There is perhaps no coincidence attached to the fact that
South Africa found themselves under unexpected pressure in the rain-ruined
first contest because not only were they already without one of their “big two”
in reliability, the currently absent AB de Villiers, but their glaringly
insufficient first-knock total of 248 also featured a failure by the other,
Amla, as the skipper succumbed to a loose stroke for 13.
The street-wise 32-year-old hasn’t got going at any stage of
the tour yet, when you peruse his innings in the surrendered one-day
international series: 14, 22 and 15.
He is “getting in” to a fair enough degree, it seems, but
has temporarily lost his knack of making that very development properly,
powerfully count in his favour.
Indeed, you have to go back as far as March 3 to find the
last genuinely substantial knock by the man fondly nicknamed in trendy
techno-parlance “The Incredible #”.
On that occasion at Canberra, he lashed 159 against
second-tier opponents Ireland at the World Cup as the Proteas amassed 400-plus
and went on to a 201-run win – although his CWC then tapered off as 38 was his
highest figure in four further turns at the crease.
Even the month of May, experienced in Derbyshire’s fold in
England, failed to restore Amla to vintage, durable best, although he did get a
couple of half-centuries to confirm he wasn’t exactly at sea with his game.
The one thing you should probably guard against doing is
suggesting the cares of national leadership are weighing down on Amla’s own
Just two matches into his tenure as Test captain, he
registered a crucial 139 not out against Sri Lanka, a Colombo vigil that went a
long way to ensuring the Proteas safely played out a draw there to ensure a
pleasing 1-0 series triumph.
Then when West Indies were the lone Test visitors to our
shores last summer, Amla was in typically destructive mode at Centurion, where
he withered their attack to the tune of a single-innings 208.
Just as I might well have been inclined to do in Bradman’s
case all those years back, I’m simply not prepared to wager against Amla
restoring normal personal service in this Test match.
History, showing failure greatly outweighed by his plunder,
tells you that’s too risky ...
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