Cape Town - It’s
an issue many may prefer to tiptoe around.
But it is no
longer an unreasonable question to ask: might Thursday’s now redemptive-themed
second Test against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park turn out to be the great
Hashim Amla’s last - his 124th - for the Proteas?
increasingly compelling reasons for believing this could be the case.
has served no specific public notice of his international plans beyond the
looming World Cup in England and Wales, that is the obvious enough type of occasion
for a long-serving cricketer of his amazing record and calibre to treat as a
swansong: many illustrious players before him have used the 50-overs jamboree,
staged every four years, for that purpose.
have turned 36, too, by the time the event comes along in late May - he is a
family man who has been on the draining, globe-trotting circuit in
distinguished service of his country (often across all three formats) since as
far back as 2004.
the series-ending clash with the ‘Lankans, which the Proteas have to win just
to share the spoils after the Kusal Perera-inspired upset in Durban, South
Africa play no further Test cricket until well after CWC 2019.
That will be
their taxing first assignment in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship, a
three-Test series away to currently planet-leading India in October.
like the dawning of a new era in so many ways, and whether Amla will even
desire to be part of it is uncertain at this point.
majority of Proteas enthusiasts will be wishing very fervently that the
once-imperious right-hander gets to retire on his own terms, as he so richly
deserves ... but his markedly declining form at both Test and one-day
international level in the past year or more is also becoming problematic to
the point that his status as a senior figure in the team is now more tenuous
than it has been at any stage of his multi-format career for South Africa.
possibly earmarked for sublime, completed career batting averages in the lower-
to mid-50s in both Tests and ODIs, he has dipped southward a little
depressingly in both: he currently stands at 46.95 in the former and 49.74 in
frontline batting order that is collectively, worryingly vulnerable, Amla
failed to fire significantly again in the nail-biting one-wicket reverse to the
Sri Lankans at Kingsmead, being dismissed for 3 and 16.
The time is
getting closer - some will argue passionately it has already arrived - for the
Proteas brains trust to act decisively in selection terms to try to restore
higher standards at and near the top of the order, although, in Amla’s specific
defence, his second-last Test saw him register key, fighting knocks of 41 and
71 in the third Test against Pakistan at the Wanderers.
to play in Port Elizabeth purely on those grounds, and even before you begin to
weigh up the potential effect of sacrificing his enormous know-how at this
But if he
doesn’t weigh in with meaningful runs at St George’s Park, it could have the effect
of persuading him even more profoundly that it may be time to call it quits in
the Test arena: either that or coax the national selectors into believing that
new blood will be required at his expense ahead of the novel Test Championship.
of travelling to India later in the year without Amla is a pretty scary one,
just based on what we all know he CAN do when he is consistently on top of his
was among the many South African batsmen to have a relative shocker on the
prior Test tour there in 2015, when controversial, lotto-like dustbowls were
the order of the day, he has performed phenomenally there before.
ever forget his 2010 series, where his only three innings produced 253 not out
at Nagpur and 114 and 123 not out at Kolkata?
even vaguely near that astonishing consistency hasn’t been notably apparent from
Amla for a long time: the period has stretched to 27 innings now since his last
Test century (against Bangladesh at Bloemfontein) while his last against a
fellow member of the “big four” nations came against England as far back as
January 2016 at Centurion.
He is at
very least flirting with the axe although, on the positive side, he
traditionally fares rather better at St George’s Park (average 40.33) than he
does at Kingsmead, where his figure slid even further over the last few days to
But if you
are locally-based and count yourself among the ranks of the well-subscribed Hashim
Amla Appreciation Society, it might well be worth turning out in the Friendly
City to see him take guard once or twice against Sri Lanka and earnestly will
him on to success.
At least at
Test level, there may be few - or increasingly likelier no - further
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