It was always going to take a strong figure to assume the role of South African Test captain in the wake of Graeme Smith’s international retirement, and the Proteas have elected Hashim Amla to take on the leadership responsibilities.
The batsman – and former world number one in the ICC individual rankings – has previous experience as vice captain to the ODI squad, and he will skipper South Africa for their two-match series against Sri Lanka next month.
Amla captained South Africa for the 2002 Under-19 World Cup, two years before he won his first full cap. But now he has been involved in international cricket for a decade now and has become one of the most formidable batsmen in the game in recent times.
After being named as official successor to Smith, the 31-year-old said: “It is an honour and a great privilege to be given this responsibility.”
South Africa’s current one-day captain, AB de Villiers, was the favourite to be named coin caller for the five-day game as well.
But it is Amla who is now charged with returning the Proteas to the summit of the ICC Test rankings. After nearly two years as kings of the format, the South Africans were overtaken by Australia last month.
The bearded batsman becomes just the fifth man to become full-time captain of South Africa since their return from the international sporting wilderness in 1992.
And previous skippers – Kepler Wessels, Hansie Cronje, Shaun Pollock and Graeme Smith – have generally been awarded relatively long stints in charge.
In addition, the Durban-born batsman becomes the first non-white South African to inherit the captaincy.
In 76 Tests, Amla has scored 6,214 runs at an average in excess of 50. With the bat, he is one of his country’s most valuable players. However, the added stress of captaincy can sometimes have a detrimental impact on an individual’s personal performance.
Nevertheless, the occasional opener is relishing the opportunity he has been handed.
He added: "This is an exciting challenge but one that I take on with positivity with our Test team being in exceptionally good space at the moment with the support of a strong core of senior players.
"I have concentrated on taking my batting to the highest possible level and now I feel I am in a position to make a contribution to South African cricket in a leadership role."
South Africa’s slip from the summit of the world rankings has been exacerbated by the retirement of several high-profile players over the last year.
The holy trinity of Smith, Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis will be practically impossible to replace. However, Amla will draw support from limited-overs skippers, de Villiers and Faf du Plessis.
Captain Amla’s first opponents, Sri Lanka, are currently touring England.
South Africa travel to the subcontinent in July, where they will play three ODIs and two Test matches.
The first ODI takes place in Colombo on July 6, whilst the Test series commences in Galle on July 16.
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