Hashim Amla will make history on Wednesday when he takes the field as South Africa’s first permanent non-white skipper, helming a team in transition after the retirements of Test greats Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis.
Amla was named captain last month after Smith retired from international cricket, signalling the end of an era which saw him lead out the Proteas a record-breaking 109 times over ten years.
Thirty-one-year-old Amla is the first non-white player to captain the Test side in a full-time capacity — Ashwell Prince has skippered on a stand-in basis. His appointment was seen in race-conscious South Africa as evidence that cricket there is serious about racial transformation.
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A two-Test series against Sri Lanka in Galle starting Wednesday is Amla’s first assignment as South Africa look to rebuild in the absence of Smith, all-rounder Kallis and experienced wicketkeeper Mark Boucher. Amla, who has often shied away from the public eye, has urged patience, saying it will take time for a successful new side to gel.
“It’s a newish team with a few new names. It took the previous team a few years before we found a winning combination,” said Amla, who smashed two centuries in the three-match one-day series against Sri Lanka.
“It will be naive to think it won’t take time before we find another winning combination,” he cautioned, adding “not many teams go to Sri Lanka and dominate”.
Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews’ form has improved since taking charge of the team last February — and with the ever-dependable Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara alongside him, the home team are a strong outfit.
“We normally do perform well under pressure. It’s just a matter of absorbing it,” said Mathews. “We’ve done pretty well in the past six months and I hope the team will continue to do so.”
UP FOR GRABS
South Africa will be looking to reclaim their number one Test ranking from Australia, which they can with a 2-0 win, while the hosts are keen to improve on their sixth spot.
“Any Test team wants to be ranked number one,” said Amla. “We’ve had that privilege but having lost it is a fair reflection of how we have played.
“We haven’t played our best cricket over the last year or so,” he admitted. “It is a proud thing to be ranked number one. Foremost is to try and get us back there.”
MAHELA TO QUIT TESTS
Colombo: Former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jaywardene will retire from test cricket, but will continue to play ODIs.
In a letter to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) Chief Executive Officer Ashley De Silva, the 37-year old has stated that he would like to retire from test cricket after the forthcoming series against South Africa and Pakistan, said SLC in a statement.
“It was not an easy decision to make given that it has been a great privilege and honor representing my country during the past 18 years, but I believe this is the right time,” Jayawardene said. (AP)