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A tribute to Hashim Amla


Hashim_Amla_Cricket_South_AfricaIf you find yourself in a team where Graeme Smith is at the very top, followed by Jacques Kallis as the number three and AB de Villiers following you in the late middle order, the very thought of leaving an impact among these great stroke-makers can itself be an onerous task.

Because when you play for South Africa, you don’t just play for pride. You play to uphold the spirit of the contest. When you live under the South African sun, you are expected to sparkle and emanate your own rays like the sun. To do things that are far beyond the reach of normal sportsmen.

Hashim Amla, 36, didn’t just fulfill the responsibilities of being a skilled opening and number 3 bat, he dignified the sport. He painted a game often driven by histrionics with a brush of simplicity, sanding its corrosive edges down with no shortage of grace and style.

He collected his runs elegantly, he brought softness and tenderness to a sport that can be harsh on the spirit and test one’s mental make-up. His cricket mirrored his personality.

As Hashim Amla leaves the sport, after a decade and a half of wielding the bat, he can look back and smile on what he has achieved. He didn’t just entertain those who gathered to see him bat. His career paved the way for the next generation of South Africans and gave them a worthy legacy to strive towards.

He did more than just fill a spot left vacant by the exit of the great Graeme Smith; he made it into his own infallible, un-collapsible zone. He stuck to it like a magician to his simplest, most reliable trick.

Whether it was his famous 244-ball-25 run ‘blockathon’ at Delhi, at a time where South Africa lost the Tests comprehensively, or his fluent, charismatic unbeaten 311* in the triumph against England, Hashim Amla approached his innings like great men often do: with studiousness and an indefatigable resolve.

He abstained from flirting outlandishly with deliveries outside the off stump, teaching us the art of self-preservation. He was a great miner of runs, if it must be put that way, particularly toward his favorite mid-wicket and mid-on areas, realigning our focus on the great pleasure of scoring via grounded shots instead of resorting to dangerous airborne slogs.

Yet, it mustn’t be forgotten that how purposefully he made the most of his potential to score freely in limited overs cricket.

At a time where our cricketing idolatry seemed restricted to Kohli, Root, Gayle, Williamson, and Smith, Amla arrived unnoticed and broadened our horizons.

The fastest to reach 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 and 7,000 ODI runs, Amla was always an interesting, curious peak-conqueror.

But the summits he scaled humbled him as a man, they didn’t elongate his ego to becoming an arrogant, unreachable man.

He was someone who took pleasure in the achievement of his mates, like Steyn going past Pollock’s record Test wicket tally, like Faf rising to the helm of Proteas leadership. The tall, long-bearded personality offering an endearing smile as his compatriots jumped and hopped about.

Putting a price on his wicket, Amla batted like a man determined to rescue cricket from the banality of the wham-bam excursions modern T20 cricket has spread into other formats.

He will be remembered for the great poise and simplicity he brought to the daring, challenging art of opening the batting.

His batting may not have filled the stands with explosiveness the way one would associate with a Pollard, Rohit, Gayle, de Villiers, Dhoni and the likes.

But it had a fabric of magnetism and grace that compelled one to not leave the seats until the match was done, until a landmark was reached, until South Africa were over the line.

He was the common thread of the collective South African spirit. He arrived in a circuit that shone bright on a quartet of talents: Smith, Kallis, Pollock, de Villiers.

He leaves with a clutch of able youngsters in de Kock, Markram, van der Dussen, exhibiting awe at his tall order of runs, and moreover, at his absolutely imitation-worthy conduct.

Some call him a modern-day great. Some revere him as determined batsman. Hashim Amla’s career- over 18,000 international runs, 55 centuries from Tests and ODIs combined, a dazzling Test triple ton- deserves to be viewed beyond the awe his numbers generate. He deserves to be paid the respect due to a man who always put the team before himself. Someone who took pride in being part of an inseparable collective, someone who emboldened the Proteas.

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