South Africa tour of Sri Lanka 2018
One doesn’t know who’ll enjoy the upper hand in the 5-match ODI series between Sri Lanka and their troubled tourists, South Africa.
There’s but one affirmation.
By the next fortnight, Hashim Amla would’ve hopefully played 21 ODIs against Sri Lanka. This would draw his ODI appearances against Sri Lanka level with England. These are, although, 2 less than his appearances against Australia and, 4 less than against India.
But 21 appearances against the same opponent is a good number. More so, when you’ve played these many from 164 total ODIs. Do the math, it’s easy. It means you appear at least once in every 8 games against the same opponent against whom you have a certain playing history.
Fantastic Record against Sri Lanka
Truth be told, Hashim Amla’s ODI record against Sri Lanka is worth applauding.
For a batsman who has consistently scored runs against nearly every single opponent, it’s hardly surprising that Amla has in excess of 900 ODI runs at an average of versus Sri Lanka. He also has 5 centuries against the island nation.
That may appeal even more to the fans of Hashim Amla, the man behind the silken drives and crafty nudges.
Not surprisingly, there’ll be expectations to score another ton.
And given his vicious consistency with the bat, there’s little surprise about the fan’s expectation of this utterly gentle cricketer.
But that’s the view from the other end of the spectrum; one that sides with math; favours guesswork, rests on past performances and, expects a continuation of a past trend.
How about recent form?
Regardless of how good or bad a player, one’s got to consider the most recent performances. To that end, Hashim Amla seems immediately the most polarised Protean batsman out there.
While on the one hand, having scored 5 tons and over 900 ODI runs offers a mouth-watering prospect of seeing a tonnage of runs, it doesn’t inspire much confidence to note that Amla’s recent run has been dismal, in all fairness to a great batsman.
Considered a prudent batsman, revered for phenomenal powers of concentration, Hashim enters the ODIs at the back of scores like 19 and 6, 15 and 0.
In their first clean-sweep by Sri Lanka, or for that matter any side in half a decade, South Africa’s vanguard of batting was found wanting.
Typical for any westerner to wield the bat on a dry, turning and unpredictable sub-continental wicket, Amla’s struggles were exacerbated by a complete capitulation of South Africa around him.
None other than Faf and later, Theunis de Bruyn, stood up to Sri Lanka’s foxy spin challenge.
To take nothing away from Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera, it wasn’t that South Africa forgot how to play spin and adjust their techniques accordingly, overnight. The sad, rather spineless surrender came at the back of an absolute lack of determination to strengthen their backs.
Like his teammates, Amla, too, was guilty of poor shot selection.
Those around Hashim Amla were taking one route and one alone, whether at Galle or Colombo. That was towards the pavilion.
Perhaps, the feeling of being part of a dismal batting performance, that saw a bastion of excellence like South Africa collapse for 73 may hurt Amla for quite some time.
In order to ensure that a repeat performance of the peril nightmare in Tests doesn’t occur, the onus will rest on South African batting’s frontman to lead the charge.
Usually, Hashim Amla’s game unfolds beautifully and simply. The longer he stays on the wicket, the better the prospect of South Africa holding the fort.
He need not be on a beast mode to ensure the runs keep flowing for South Africa.
In 2014, when India visited South Africa, Amla simply rotated the strike, offering the spotlight to a young batting prodigy. From thereon, it would be a Quinton de Kock show.
Even during AB de Villiers’ absolute rout of the West Indies, during the familiar pink-jersey fastest ODI hundred (149 off 44) at Jo’burg and later, the incredible 162 against the same vanquished opponents at Sydney, it was Amla, who, on both occasions simply kept the scoring rate by doing the basics right.
But that is exactly what’s missing in this tour from a man responsible for a Test triple ton, a feat that neither AB nor Kallis have managed in Tests.
What does Hashim Amla need to do in ODIs?
Moreover, it didn’t excite to learn that all the experienced gatherer of runs could score from the practice game against Sri Lanka President’s XI was a lowly 16.
Amla’s role in the side could be likened to a chameleon that can change gears quickly and adapt to changing match situations.
While what may have happened at Galle had Amla decided to play a ‘Blockathon’ seems the most useless debate now, what will be utterly valuable would be to see Amla play his natural game.
This is when his side enters a format it usually excels in and against a structurally weaker opponent, albeit the later playing on home and at the back of a successful Test win.
What would hurt the team would be to miss out on someone like a Chris Morris, who could’ve extended a lot of confidence to an embattled unit whose twin stars are the captain Faf du Plessis and his more experienced compatriot, Hashim Amla.
But a sport so naturally hardwired to change shades quickly, rotating despair often with triumph at the speed of light may just go South Africa’s way. Who knows?
But at 35, with 7500 plus ODI runs behind him, commanding tons of respect and a penchant for scoring vital runs- could there be anything as important to Amla than diving in a surge for self-improvement? Young, brash, restless cricketers tend to blast and fade away at almost the same instance.
We need not tell which league Hashim Amla belongs to.
Someone who completed his 9000th Test run, albeit off a dropped catch against spin would love to go past his 1000th run against Sri Lanka in the best possible manner.
Even destiny is coaxing him to do the needful, Hashim Amla having the chance to do so in Sri Lanka itself.