Hashim Amla’s appointment as South Africa’s ninth post-isolation Test captain is likely to be ratified on June 3 or June 4 following the unexpected and eyebrow-raising U-turn on his availability two weeks ago.
A decade of leadership reluctance, from under-19 level to national captaincy, culminated in a change of heart in which he said he had “always been involved in game plans and was involved in strategy on the field”.
As any long-term international captain will confirm, that aspect of the job is usually the 10% that is routinely pleasurable.
“He must have considered the other aspects, the press conferences and the endless interviews, and he presumably accepted that they are a major part of the job,” said Shaun Pollock, one of only four men to have held the job permanently since 1991.
“Hashim has never been particularly forthright in public but I’m sure he can be counted on to be diplomatic when required,” Pollock said. “Captaincy is a very personal thing and you never know quite how it will be until you’re in the thick of it.”
AB de Villiers was the clear favourite for the job until Amla became a late candidate but a desire to retain him as wicketkeeper and number five batsman may have hurt his captaincy aspirations. “Having AB as ‘keeper certainly gives the side more options – they could play a second spinner in Sri Lanka, or an extra batsman,” Pollock said.
Having resigned his provincial captaincy, declined to captain the national team as a stand-in and then resigned the official vice-captaincy, there are reservations among both the selectors and the Cricket South Africa board about Amla’s willingness to “tough it out” during the inevitable bleak times, but the prospect of the Proteas having their first full-time black Test captain is likely to be too tempting to resist.