South African cricket is known to follow traditional paths, but they have sprung a big surprise by elevating Hashim Amla as Test captain ahead of the expected choice, AB de Villiers. The logic behind the decision is that de Villiers is already burdened with one-day captaincy and also keeps wickets, so the Test leadership might have been too much on him, especially with the 2015 World Cup less than a year away. The thought makes a lot of sense under the present scenario, but what remains to be seen now is how Amla warms up to the Test captaincy.
Having seen him on the field over the last decade, Amla comes across as a very laidback character, who concentrates all his efforts on his batting. But, now with him in charge of the side, he will need to be more proactive. Of course, the basic nature of the person cannot change. It would be intriguing to see though how Amla adapts to the additional responsibility, and whether it would affect his batting, which has been rock solid over the last decade.
Per se, there is no fixed formula for success as a leader. Each one finds his own way as he discovers himself as a leader. Graeme Smith, for example, was not an astute captain, neither did he possess great tactical acumen. His confrontational style of captaincy still worked, as he backed his actions, and overpowered the best of sides. There was a lot of uncertainty prevalent in South African cricket at the time when Smith took over. He was only 22, and yet to establish himself as an international cricketer. What he achieved under the circumstances was remarkable, and the task would be easier for Amla, as the nucleus of the team is in place.
Amla’s leadership could possibly be more about leading from the front and letting the team follow his example. Whether he has the tactical brilliance of a leader, only time will tell. For now, Amla’s key goal definitely should be to try and take South Africa back to the number one ranking, from where they have slipped in recent times. The new South African captain will be handicapped to an extent by the loss of two big stalwarts in Smith and Jacques Kallis. At the same time, he can look forward to support from other seniors like Dale Steyn, de Villiers, JP Duminy, and Morne Morkel.
Amla’s first assignment as leader will be in Sri Lanka, which will be a hard initiation for him. The new Proteas skipper has already made a smart move by stating that too much shouldn’t be expected of the side in Lanka as teams have traditionally struggled there. The rebuilding process will take time, and Amla has done well not to raise the expectations level too much for a start. This is a new phase in South African cricket, with the old guard gone, and Amla will be keen to leave his stamp on the era, as a leader.
--By A Cricket Analyst