Bangladesh's real challenge lies abroad, Hashim Amla tells

Bangladesh’s real challenge lies abroad, Hashim Amla tells

0 had been seeking an exclusive interview with South Africa captain Hashim Amla since the beginning of their month-long tour in Bangladesh.The 32-year-old batsman finally found time on the eve of the second and final Test.Amla, a man of quiet disposition, poured his heart out while speaking to at the South African team’s dining room after finishing batting practice in Mirpur.You are yet to lose a match or a series after being handed the captaincy of the Test team. How do you want to proceed in terms of leadership? Surely, looking to be a great someday?Amla: I have been playing international cricket for almost 11-12 years. The first ten years were under Graeme Smith. He is probably the best captain that I have played under. He was not the only captain that I played under. Guys like Dale Benkenstein was the captain of my domestic team and a few other guys along the way. I think, from a personal point of view, it is only natural for me to learn from everybody with whom I am involved.
Last year, when the captaincy came up and I was fortunate to be captain of this team, there was no doubt those type of personalities and whatever you learn will come up. That’s what I have found. Captaincy itself is not something that you can finish, like you read a book and finish and you know everything. I am sure if you asked great captains of the world they will tell you that you will keep learning as your career progresses.It has only been one year, seven Test matches. For me it has also been a learning experience. I have inherited a very well-polished Test team that has been doing well. Last year, we managed to put in some good performances, notably in Sri Lanka, which is a difficult place to play. But we did exceptionally well. I think we exceeded expectations especially after losing Smith and Kallis.I think, on this tour, you are seeing for the first time the real effects of having lost three big guys – Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Alviro Peterson. Now when you look at our Test team you see a lot of new faces. Many people around the world will probably put the TV on and say Simon Harmer, who is that? Dean Elger, he’s played a couple of games; Stiaan van Zyl, who’s that? Temba Bavuma, who’s that? It is a very, very new team, and in Test cricket when you have new faces it is actually a big change. It is not as big a change in one-day cricket and T20s. Since we have such a settled Test team over the last 8-9 years, we are now in a bit of a transition phase.
The challenge for us is to try and maintain winning performances and nurture these guys so that, when we leave, they can keep going.You speak about learning leadership skills but you led the Under-19 team in the World Cup, became captain of KwaZulu-Natal at the age of 21. Everybody knew you were South Africa’s future captain. Are leadership qualities natural to you?Amla: In those age groups, for some reason, I found myself in the captaincy position. I think that type of upbringing almost forces captaincy never to leave. Even when Graeme was captain, I found myself many times giving him ideas. That is just what happens: the mind never stops thinking on the field.
Before taking over the captaincy last year, I resisted captaincy. Graeme’s retirement was a surprising one – most of us didn’t expect it. And something in me said why not? This may be a good time to explore this avenue of my career. Having the experience of a batsman for 10 years, if there’s any value I would like to add as a captain, I would like to add it. I certainly wouldn’t like to leave South African cricket with a feeling in my heart that I have not given all that I have to offer.And I don’t know what I have to offer. As the years progress, probably it will become clearer to me and the team and hopefully we will have a successful tenure from now on until I finish.But you rejected the offer of ODI captaincy in 2013. Were you still not prepared then?Amla: I was vice-captain. I just felt like I didn’t want anything to do with captaincy. There were moments when, I remember, AB, who was captain, didn’t play because he was banned or he was injured. I felt at that stage that, no, I didn’t want to take the captaincy. Then it was a real thing. If AB gets banned again, you want somebody to take over who is willing to take over. At that stage I wasn’t willing to be the captain. Now things have changed.How much has your batting developed since the start of your career until now?Amla: International cricket is a tough environment. I was 21 years old when I started playing international cricket. I can’t now even imagine what I was thinking back then. It was 11 years ago. There’s no doubt that the longer you play international cricket, if you have an open mind and a good support structure, it makes the transition from domestic cricket to international cricket easier. I felt at that stage that the most difficult adjustment was not the cricket. It was getting to understanding how international cricket worked outside cricket and how you fit into a different team environment. The time that I started working that out, my cricket also started to improve as well. As a batsman you will always learn when you are at the highest level. Your cricket will, naturally, improve because you are playing with guys who are wonderful cricketers like Kallis, and you are playing against great cricketers like Tendulkar, Dravid and Ponting. Naturally, you will improve.You are one of the best batsmen of the era, one of the all-time best for South Africa, with an unbelievable conversion rate of fifties to hundreds. How do you maintain this rate so well?Amla: (Laughs) Batting is about just trying to stay at the crease and scoring runs. It is really such a simple thing. To implement it is the difficult part. You need a lot of things to go your way, in a sense that opportunities will fall on your lap and they won’t fall on somebody else’s lap. Such things don’t bother me too much. What I can have some element on influence is how I train and the mental energy I put into my batting. That’s what I concentrate on. Whatever proceeds from that, I am grateful, and I have managed to get some runs in international cricket.Certainly, at the age of 16 when I first played my first first-class game, I never imagined that I will play for South Africa for 11 years. So I just try and conduct myself and my cricket in such a way, it gives me the best chance to succeed.Sir Viv Richards is seen as the ultimate aggressive batsman. You’ve put a handful of his records behind in one-day cricket. How do you see this?Amla: Sir Viv will always be, to anybody who has watched him even remotely, the master blaster. I don’t think anybody can come close to him. Who knows, (what will happen) in the future. I am quite happy to forfeit all my records and he can just keep his name on the top because this is what he deserves. One-day cricket has been wonderful. I was very fortunate I have played one-day cricket. One-day cricket is really enjoyable.There was a time when many had doubts about your one-day batting ability. Although your Test debut came in 2004, it took until 2008 for one-day.Amla: One of the things I was talking about understanding international cricket was that people would always doubt you. In South Africa, there’s a good chance people will doubt you even more. So when it comes to people having doubts about my one-day potentials, you will never know until you play.I think growing up you can understand that it is not about people. It is about you and the cricket ball and whether you can sideline various issues, other people’s opinions and apply yourself as best as possible to be successful. That’s what I have tried.Now you have numerous records in one-day cricket – the only South African to score a triple century in Tests, Wisden Cricketer of the Year, and so many other records as well. Which one gives you the most pleasure?Amla: Which ones give me most pleasure? I think those that are Test-related give me a lot more satisfaction. Growing up playing Test cricket was almost a dream. A real ambition. So I think being involved with a winning Test team for the last 5-6 years is extremely satisfying. We have had big tours to England and Australia in 2008 and 2012. Not many teams can say that they have done what the South African team has done. So, up until now, those team achievements I would consider as the highlights. Does Hashim Amla ever get angry?Amla: [Laughs] Of course you get angry. You get disappointed, sad, upset. Anger is a harsh word. I think everybody gets at some stage.I don’t get angry at players. There’s no need to get angry at them. You have 15 guys in the team who I have no doubt want this team to win and want themselves to do well than anything else. I find it absurd to get angry at anyone who I know is giving his best. You will get disappointed at losing and not performing, but everybody is trying their best.Your one-day debut was against Bangladesh in 2008. You have seen Bangladesh for many years, played against them too. What do you think about the present team? How do you see the recent development of Bangladesh cricket?Amla: Certainly Bangladesh has improved over the years that I have played against them. It shows in their result that they have had, especially at home. Their challenge will be, and I am sure they will acknowledge it, lies away from home. But the fact that they are winning at home is a great improvement for them.They have players in the Bangladesh team in ODI cricket, have a lot more experience than myself, guys in our own team. As was my first point, the more you play international cricket it is only natural to improve and that’s what is happening. Now you see some of the players are maturing and understanding the game. I guess that’s why you are seeing them winning at home.


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