The flowing cover drives and sumptuous slashes past point have pleased fans and connoisseurs alike. The gentle pushes past the bowler have found their way right into viewers’ hearts. The dabs, the whips off the hip, too, have always taken the path of elegance. But what is the most striking is Hashim Amla’s persona - the infectious smile, the calm and modest demeanour.
As he takes the field, his smile reaches us even before he does. Amid the chaos and the rush, a hushed air of serenity surrounds him. In Hashim Amla, one sees a humble human who prefers to keep a low profile and embrace the cricket field. A gentleman’s game, cricket is called. A true gentleman of the game, is our Hashim.
Amla declined the offer of a dinner in the honor of his 100th Test ahead of the game. Short of some runs, he didn’t want the moment to get the better of him. Instead, he chose to celebrate in his own style, in a space created by his own runs - at the centre of Wanderers. He shimmied down the track to Rangana Herath to score his 26th ton, and dinner was served. None complained, except perhaps the Lankans on the field.
Hashim Amla has played 100 Tests and will hopefully play a lot more. In the last decade or so, cricket lovers have been treated to a visual spectacle thanks to Amla. Few things please a heart like runs off Hashim Amla’s bat.
Amla is an innovative monk; an experimental sage. Calm and patient yet hungry and adventurous. Solid and tight but also lavish and expressive - like Dravid and Laxman moulded into one. He may appear loose and flashy but that is disguise at its best. As much flamboyance as there is, there exists an equal measure of assurance too; two extremes seamlessly sculpted into one, to form a whole. To make a genius.
To illustrate the extremes, at Perth, in 2012, Amla amassed 196 runs in the 3rd innings to set up a historic series victory for the Proteas. He scored this at a staggering rate of 88. A year back, in Cape Town, after Australia collapsed to a mere 47, Amla and Smith chased down 236 runs to stage one of the greatest South African comebacks. Amla scored 112 of those runs at a rate of 83. In 2012, at the Oval against England, Amla scored a fluent triple century, becoming the 1st South African to do so.
When Amla is at his fluent best, there is no stopping the flow of tide. When in form, he smoothly cuts into your wounds with a synthetic blade. Forget the blade, the willow is a paintbrush in disguise. And the act itself, after all, isn’t seen as savage but only as a display of artistry. The hunted is left to applaud, for the hunter is a saint, a virtuous artist.
Almost 7 years ago at the Eden Gardens, as wickets tumbled on a dry 4th & 5th day surface, India came up against a force which refused to move. For almost 2 days, Amla lived the life of an ascetic who had given up every desire in the world except for one – batting. He batted and batted and batted; he was the ultimate immovable object.
Amla scored 123 unbeaten runs and batted 394 balls, which accounts to a total of almost 66 overs, the same number of overs faced by the rest of his 10 team teammates put together, who all got out. At the other side of the wicket, Hashim Amla was standing alone, unconquered. He was meditating all the while. The Indians threw everything at him to disrupt his concentration. But Hashim Amla batted like he breathed.
In the last couple of months, this South African team has gone through varying emotions. Test series victories, most of the times, serve as a tonic and heal a few wounds. But this time around, it hasn’t been the case. The wounds have been cut wide open for everyone to see. The skipper charged with cheating, the Kolpak deals and Abbott’s emotional press conference have dented quite a few cheerful hearts around the world. In the midst of all this, runs off Amla’s bat were far too few to find any sort of relief from these turmoils.
In his last 10 innings or so, Amla hadn’t got enough runs. He was a bit fidgety, unsure and short in confidence. The Proteas camp hadn’t openly expressed any concern over their main batsman’s lack of runs, but the man himself must have been nervous and eager to get among runs.
At the Wanderer’s, after a lucky reprieve, Hashim was off. Among the runs again. Though the world isn’t entirely a better place, at least it seems like one when Hashim is batting. And as long as Hashim bats, it will continue to be so.
Irrespective of what is going around, one can always find solace in Hashim Amla’s runs. And the news that Amla is among the runs again is welcome news to the new year.
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