With good preparation heading into the tournament, Hashim Amla is confident ahead of the opener against Zimbabwe
South Africa may have arrived in Hambantota only on Wednesday morning, a day before its first match of the tournament, but it did keep an eye on the action when the two first-stage opponents, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, played each other. The purpose of that was not quite to see how the opposition was doing, but to get some clues about the kind of conditions it may encounter.
“Obviously watching that game gave us a better idea of how they are playing,” said Hashim Amla. “But more important for us was to see how the wicket played and the kind of scores you are looking at on this ground, given the size of the field.”
Amla also admitted that Sri Lanka had set down the marker in its game, and hoped that South Africa could match them. “I think we need to start well,” said Amla. “Each T20 game is different, getting a victory in any way, whatever way is the start that's what we are looking for. Whatever way we're going to get a win, we have to play good cricket, that's been our aim. Fortunately we've had good preparation coming here and we are hoping to apply those things.”
Amla has been in fine form, battering England with a string of tall scores in both Tests and ODIs. He was a central figure in South Africa’s success in England, but he is yet to establish himself as a force in Twenty20 cricket. “I'm relatively inexperienced in the Twenty20 format, but fortunately I managed to get some runs in England which helped with the confidence,” he said. “I am playing in a very good team. That really helps. Batting up front, we have guys like Jacques Kallis who's been involved for quite some time, so for me I'm taking every game as a learning experience and hoping to make good contributions.”
When asked where he would bat, the trademark Amla giggle broke out. “If the selectors choose me, I will be in the top three I guess.”
Amla is a throwback to a different era in these times of cricketers generally sporting ink, bling, spiked hair and, occasionally, all of the above. While many youngsters today seek out the bright lights and the trappings of fame, Amla plays cricket because he just loves to bat. “Every cricketer goes through times in their careers where they excel, I've been very fortunate that over the last couple of months I managed to fit in that category,” he said with characteristic modesty. “I don't look too much into the spotlight that comes on to you when you are scoring runs, I just try to keep things simple and hopefully I will get the team off to a good start.”
Look no further than Twitter for an insight into how Amla’s mind works. Known in the twitterverse as The Mighty #, Amla might one day quote a Theodore Tilton poem, as he did recently, or refer casually to something Rumi said. On reaching Hambantota, Amla, who admitted to being “excited” at being choppered to the venue, said this on twitter: “The 2004 tsunami struck Hambantota badly. Good to be here to experience the recovery and the friendly, good spirited hospitality.”
Amla may prefer to downplay his importance in the South African team, but his team-mates and opponents alike know just what a big wicket his is. When he does well, South Africa generally prospers.