April 4, 2012

In praise of Amla

South Africa's No. 3 has joined the likes of Laxman, Gower and Jayawardene among the most stylish of modern batsmen
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It is time for heavy hearts. The Age of Laxmanship, the era of Laxmanliness, is drawing to a close. For a decade and more, Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman has been a byword, the byword, for sensory batsmanship. So long has the crown spent on his head, consensus has become truth. He's been the Earl of Ease, the Guv'nor of Grace, the Sultan of Serenity - a quiet monument to the aesthetic possibilities of the competitive arts as well as a rousing rebuttal to the argument that only grimaces finish first.

Even the name makes you salivate - all melody, harmony and rhythm, capped by that inspired abbreviation, VVS, with its assonant lilt and limitless acronymic potential. I'd revise a Disney ditty and plump for Very Very Scrumptious, but that's far too sappy next to the original Very Very Special.

Style and substance have reigned hand in glove. Here was the only batsman to consistently tame Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, a veritable Zen master of the fourth-innings chase. The other day I rewound his Kolkata 2001 masterpieces - his first-innings 59, studded with a dozen fours and cut short only by Peter Willey's over-enthusiastic forefinger, was no less pleasurable than that legendary 281, that peak of 21st century batsmanship, of Laxmanship, its resonance growing with every passing year. That the stage was Eden Gardens could not have been more apt.

All His Laxmanship's hallmarks were present and correct: the controlled, rubbery wristiness; the precise, pitter-pattering footwork and clever use of the crease; the unflusterable demeanour; the coordination of hands, eyes and head; the judgement of when to play early and when late, when to retreat and when to advance; the ball caressed, never brutalised. An ocular treat, sure, but a spiritual one too.

Being in thrall to beauty (could there be a more subjective assessment?) can make you fiercely, even illogically, protective of those who deliver it. Laxman has been no exception. To suggest he carries on in the wake of a mostly miserable 2011, during which he appeared to have all but lost the knack of keeping the ball on the ground, might be deemed excessively optimistic, not to say sentimental and a profound insult to India's bit-champing young lions, but come on. It would be nice if he hung around long enough to tackle England next winter, admit it.

Now take Tom Graveney, whose frequent omissions from England XIs in the 1950s and '60s become all the more astonishing when you consider that Geoffrey Boycott deemed his technique the one he most admired. To see a photo of Graveney standing tall and erect at the crease, pulling Charlie Griffith, the rip-snorting nastiest great bowler of the '60s, through midwicket as you or I might swat a fly, is to recognise the distinction between prosaic and poetic.

My main Achilles heel was David Gower, who batted with the same delicious lightness of touch as Claude Monet applied paint, Oscar Peterson tinkled ivory, and Pat Metheny plucks strings. It was his exclusion from the 1992-93 tour of India and Sri Lanka that spurred me to write his biography, and write it angry. Very angry.

Not that I was alone in my maternal instincts. Harold Pinter, the playwright, sent Gower a telegram attacking the selectors' "disgraceful" myopia. Whenever his hero was on TV, fearful of jinxing him, Tim Rice, Mr Jesus Christ Superstar, hid behind the sofa. Whenever he watched Gower pierce the covers with a luxuriant swish of the blade that served as an extension of heart, soul and nervous system, Francis Wheen, one of our more wittily incisive political columnists, found himself drawn to the celebrated Irish word-weaver WB Yeats:

Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight

Drove to this tumult in the clouds.

Gower and bowler, warranted Alan Ross, the poet and former Observer cricket correspondent, were "accomplices in a kind of illusory magic". We're less romantic now, so it's bloody hard, if not impossible, to imagine anyone writing that about Alastair Cook, David Warner or Misbah-ul-Haq.

As sport has risen in tempo, beauty, sadly if inevitably, has become ever more elusive, especially in the more confrontational games. Where is the time, much less the space? Nicknaming a leading footballer "Stroller" - aka George Graham, a midfielder fabled for his disinclination to run - is now unthinkable. Twenty years ago, when hookers and props were more Samit Patel than Jonty Rhodes, rugby union rippled with flowing moves, the ball flipped from hand to hand while dummies were sold and defenders deluded; now the forwards are as fit as the backs, the backs are as beefy as the forwards, and creativity is stifled.

Fortunately, even at its snappiest, cricket encourages contemplation: there's always time to dwell and wallow. Yet if no stroke is quite so languidly, ravishingly lavish as the late cut, Barry Richards was not unjustified, in acclaiming an exquisitely tardy glide by AB de Villiers, when he lamented its scarcity. In the Twenty20 era, with its accent on urgency and improvisation, ends, more than ever, are prized higher than means.

The only sniff of showmanship comes at the culmination of a drive, when Amla checks his follow-through as if slamming on an inner handbrake. You could call it anti-showmanship. You could also call it quietly arrogant. "Check out these wrists, matey. The faster you bowl, the softer I hit."

So who are the heirs to His Laxmanship? So sublime in Galle, Mahela Jayawardene may finally be about to move out of that lengthy shadow; Ian Bell and Michael Clarke have frequently hinted at grandeur, even hauteur; there's a poised, polished stillness about Jonathan Trott; Alviro Petersen and JP Duminy flowed as sweetly in Wellington as Jack Daniel's over ice; Dwayne Smith reminded us in Bridgetown that he can charm birds from trees. My man, though, is still Hashim Amla.

Compact and exact, smooth of movement and precise of placement, his "V" is more of a "W". It might be pushing it to classify him as a right-handed, more orthodox Brian Lara, but not much. Watching small fourth-innings targets being chased down is seldom a rewarding expenditure of time, but to see him speed South Africa home against New Zealand in Hamilton was to bask in his art. One late cut (two in consecutive days, noch!) off Kane Williamson was executed with so much time to spare the bowler might as well have texted his intentions then tweeted them for good measure.

The only sniff of showmanship comes at the culmination of a drive, when he checks his follow-through as if slamming on an inner handbrake. You could call it anti-showmanship. You could also call it quietly arrogant. "Check out these wrists, matey. The faster you bowl, the softer I hit."

Timing is an elusive, often illusory beast. The line separating good from bad is miniscule, measurable in hundredths of seconds and subject to the vicissitudes of the pitch. In Galle it was timing that hoisted Bell and Jayawardene above the wicket-fest. In more taxing conditions against Australia, West Indies showed us both sides of the coin. Kieran Powell, a lean leftie from Nevis, stole the breath away more than once. Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo, too, uncorked strokes for which "elegant" really is the only word. On other occasions - at the risk of resurrecting a stereotype - they all seemed a little too intent on looking cool. Dancing daintily along that tightrope for the most part, there were also too many times when they looked as if they were wading in treacle. The most effective batsmen, Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy, were the muscle men.

IT'S THAT IMPRESSION of absolute effortlessness, fuelled by optimum timing, that sets Laxman and Amla and Jayawardene apart; that elevated Graveney and Gower above their peers; Mohammad Azharuddin, Carl Hooper, Damien Martyn and Mark Waugh above theirs. Englishmen are particularly susceptible to this. After all, there's nothing we envy more than someone who succeeds without appearing to break sweat (hence Len Hutton's distaste for Graveney, and Graham Gooch's for Gower). James Bond may have been played by a Scotsman, an Irishman, a Welshman and even an Aussie, but he was created by a Londoner and personified a brand of archetypal Englishman, right down to that addiction to scrambled eggs. This is a land run by the arched eyebrow, the headquarters of disdain.

Amla is different. He always looks as if he's trying. Which is why he's a natural No. 3, why that top-edged pull off Mark Gillespie in Wellington was such a shock, and why you can envisage him scoring a triple-century, a feat attained by Jayawardene alone of the aforementioned luminaries. He's versatile too. Over the past five years he is one of just two men, alongside de Villiers, to average over 50 in Tests and ODIs.

Curiously, though, while there is no doubting the technique or craftsmanship, there is no aura of superiority, no ring of absolute confidence, none of the swagger one sometimes detects in Ravi Bopara. Maybe that's because, unlike Bopara - the latest in a growing line of Anglo-Indian internationalists and merely the second Sikh to represent England - Amla, as an Indian Protea, is the first of his breed and thus bears a bigger burden of responsibility.

There's one other oddity. Between them, helmet and beard dwarf Amla's face. Maybe that's why he looks smaller than Gower and Azhar and Laxman, even though, depending on your source, he's either the same height or an inch taller. Maybe size, too, is in the eye of the beholder?

His name conjures up a Yiddish word, hamish, a term of affection applied to someone warm and loving. Throw in my Scottish ancestry and I don't think I can possibly resist dubbing him His Hamishness.

Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY aarifboy on | April 6, 2012, 2:45 GMT

    Mark Waugh was most stylish among all,even Bradman mentioned it.Gower was second best after Mark.Third in my list is Saeed Anwar.Zaeer Abbas and M Yousaf were as stylish as Laxman and Amla,its surprising that author didn't even mention these two.

  • POSTED BY nakihunter on | April 6, 2012, 0:52 GMT

    VVS - oh what can you say about his batting, his style, his value to the team.

    I will never forget 3 strokes by Laxman. The first two were from that epic 281 at the Eden grdens. After reaching 200, Shane Warne bowled around the wicket and pitched outside leg stup. Laxman stepped out on roller skates and played the ball inside out along the ground for four. I keep plying that shot over and over again. I have never seen any other baatsman play it - ever.

    The second shot was a half pull half drive off a shortish ball from Kasprowitz that was laced through mid wicket for four. Another stroke that has never been played by any batsman - ever. Laxman made it look like the most orthodox and simple stroke to playy.

    The last storke was during his first innings of 38 in Durban in Dec 2010. The pitch was one of the most bouncy and pacy I have ever see. Stayne was lethal and yet a bouncer was hooked over square leg for 6. The shot was effortless and played with so much time!

  • POSTED BY on | April 5, 2012, 23:44 GMT

    Gundappa Vishwanath is the ultimate stylist batsman of all time. His Bating is "A thing of Beauty is joy for ever". I surprised how the author missed to mention his name in first place

  • POSTED BY on | April 5, 2012, 19:14 GMT

    Haven't read the article; just the byline. Any list of three of the most stylish batsmen of the modern era that doesn't include Mark Waugh has got to be plain wrong! :-)

  • POSTED BY Cool_Jeeves on | April 5, 2012, 15:49 GMT

    Gower, Amla, Jayawardene, Saeed Anwar, Mark Waugh, Martin Crowe, Laxman, Jeff Dujon, Zaheer Abbas, Damien Martyn, Roy Dias, Vishwanath, Azharuddin,Yousuf Youhana, Hashim Amla, all very elegant batsmen. Havent seen Lawrence Rowe, but heard he was great to watch also.

  • POSTED BY doesitmatter on | April 5, 2012, 15:34 GMT

    Where is Saeed Anwar man ? This is sacrilege..May be the author slept while he was batting because its so serene :)

  • POSTED BY RohanBhalerao on | April 5, 2012, 13:58 GMT

    Forget Amla and Laxman. This is what artistry is all about - writing like Rob Steen. Man, I am a big, big fan of yours. This article has just swept me off my feet.

  • POSTED BY on | April 5, 2012, 13:53 GMT

    I agree Amla is a south african and that is it. Only reason I responded is because of unnecessary suppositions on his ancestry by one of the posters...regrds

  • POSTED BY MrGarreth on | April 5, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    Guys if youre going to start claiming on hertiage then the entire South African team would be attributed to another nation. Anyone who knows anything about SA knows that it is only really the khoi khoi and san that originated in SA (af far as we know). As for the other 99% of the country, our heritage is either out of Africa or far north in Africa. Point is heritage is a load of nonsense. Amla is a proud Saffer and we're proud to have him.

  • POSTED BY Dr.Hasan on | April 5, 2012, 6:28 GMT

    Amla is an excellent batsman...hold him in great stead esp how he transformed his game from being a slowish test pace batsman to completely warping into a run a ball ODI batsman while keeping his style and class and continuing his test form as well. Plus his modesty and discipline is an example for all. Wish him best of luck except when playing against Pakistan :)

  • POSTED BY aarifboy on | April 6, 2012, 2:45 GMT

    Mark Waugh was most stylish among all,even Bradman mentioned it.Gower was second best after Mark.Third in my list is Saeed Anwar.Zaeer Abbas and M Yousaf were as stylish as Laxman and Amla,its surprising that author didn't even mention these two.

  • POSTED BY nakihunter on | April 6, 2012, 0:52 GMT

    VVS - oh what can you say about his batting, his style, his value to the team.

    I will never forget 3 strokes by Laxman. The first two were from that epic 281 at the Eden grdens. After reaching 200, Shane Warne bowled around the wicket and pitched outside leg stup. Laxman stepped out on roller skates and played the ball inside out along the ground for four. I keep plying that shot over and over again. I have never seen any other baatsman play it - ever.

    The second shot was a half pull half drive off a shortish ball from Kasprowitz that was laced through mid wicket for four. Another stroke that has never been played by any batsman - ever. Laxman made it look like the most orthodox and simple stroke to playy.

    The last storke was during his first innings of 38 in Durban in Dec 2010. The pitch was one of the most bouncy and pacy I have ever see. Stayne was lethal and yet a bouncer was hooked over square leg for 6. The shot was effortless and played with so much time!

  • POSTED BY on | April 5, 2012, 23:44 GMT

    Gundappa Vishwanath is the ultimate stylist batsman of all time. His Bating is "A thing of Beauty is joy for ever". I surprised how the author missed to mention his name in first place

  • POSTED BY on | April 5, 2012, 19:14 GMT

    Haven't read the article; just the byline. Any list of three of the most stylish batsmen of the modern era that doesn't include Mark Waugh has got to be plain wrong! :-)

  • POSTED BY Cool_Jeeves on | April 5, 2012, 15:49 GMT

    Gower, Amla, Jayawardene, Saeed Anwar, Mark Waugh, Martin Crowe, Laxman, Jeff Dujon, Zaheer Abbas, Damien Martyn, Roy Dias, Vishwanath, Azharuddin,Yousuf Youhana, Hashim Amla, all very elegant batsmen. Havent seen Lawrence Rowe, but heard he was great to watch also.

  • POSTED BY doesitmatter on | April 5, 2012, 15:34 GMT

    Where is Saeed Anwar man ? This is sacrilege..May be the author slept while he was batting because its so serene :)

  • POSTED BY RohanBhalerao on | April 5, 2012, 13:58 GMT

    Forget Amla and Laxman. This is what artistry is all about - writing like Rob Steen. Man, I am a big, big fan of yours. This article has just swept me off my feet.

  • POSTED BY on | April 5, 2012, 13:53 GMT

    I agree Amla is a south african and that is it. Only reason I responded is because of unnecessary suppositions on his ancestry by one of the posters...regrds

  • POSTED BY MrGarreth on | April 5, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    Guys if youre going to start claiming on hertiage then the entire South African team would be attributed to another nation. Anyone who knows anything about SA knows that it is only really the khoi khoi and san that originated in SA (af far as we know). As for the other 99% of the country, our heritage is either out of Africa or far north in Africa. Point is heritage is a load of nonsense. Amla is a proud Saffer and we're proud to have him.

  • POSTED BY Dr.Hasan on | April 5, 2012, 6:28 GMT

    Amla is an excellent batsman...hold him in great stead esp how he transformed his game from being a slowish test pace batsman to completely warping into a run a ball ODI batsman while keeping his style and class and continuing his test form as well. Plus his modesty and discipline is an example for all. Wish him best of luck except when playing against Pakistan :)

  • POSTED BY Archisman on | April 5, 2012, 5:25 GMT

    Amla is a South African. Much as I, as an Indian, would love to stake claim on this classy batsman, we have shown remarkable restraint in the past by declaring Kanhai, Kallicharran & Chaderpaul as Guyanese Greats. :)

    As regards a previous comment about whether Amla's ancestors whould have stayed back in a province in India or moved into a different geography is quite unnecessary. Let's just agree that this lovely SOUTH AFRICAN batsman had ancestors who were from the Indian Subcontinent.

  • POSTED BY on | April 5, 2012, 3:56 GMT

    Laxman no Amla are classy batsman!

  • POSTED BY Thesonofg on | April 5, 2012, 2:44 GMT

    In reading the article and the comments, there are two names which have been left out, Doug Walters and the greatest stylist of them all, Lawrence Rowe.

  • POSTED BY rahulcricket007 on | April 5, 2012, 2:29 GMT

    @EZAZ AHMED . YEAH MORE THAN 100 AVG BUT ONLY WHEN ENG WERE A HOPELESS TEAM DURING EARLY 2000S .

  • POSTED BY SaracensBob on | April 5, 2012, 2:12 GMT

    Super article - Amla is one class act, I've respected and admired him since the first time he toured over here (England) when his fantastic, obdurate, graceful batting saved a match for RSA. But think you're setting up a bit of a Gentlemen v Players debate here. Hutton or Graveney; Gooch or Gower? It's grit,grind and graft that wins test matches. A David Gower cover drive was a thing of beauty; a typical Gower dismissal - waving his bat outside off stump to be lamely caught at the wicket or in the slip cordon was quite the opposite. Show ponies don't cut it - it would be interesting to know how many times Gower contributed to an England series win as opposed to Messrs Hutton and Gooch. Hashim Amla doesn't need to be queried on his contribution to RSA - he has talent, style, grace and grit in equal measure - I salute him.

  • POSTED BY johnathonjosephs on | April 5, 2012, 1:20 GMT

    Whats all this nonsense about Amla being a Pakistani or an Indian? He is and always will be a South African. Who cares where his grandparents were born, we aren't talking about his grandparents, we are talking about Amla who was born in SA. And any list about classy and stylish batsman without Sangakkara is crazy

  • POSTED BY Gizza on | April 5, 2012, 1:02 GMT

    @Xolile, you can't really speculate can you? Amla himself identifies as a South African with Indian ancestry which is the most important thing. And as Thomas Cherian said, plenty of Gujurati Muslims have played cricket for India. @Keith Pandey, Gavaskar could definitely handle bounce but was poor against conventional swing and hence his poor record in England. Somebody like Dravid was far better in that regard.

  • POSTED BY on | April 5, 2012, 0:33 GMT

    Amla is pure class. Knowing a fair bit about technique as I'd like to believe, his is the closest to Yusuf - The back lift, the slight shuffle and the smooth flow of the blade, following up to the the mechanism of their drives, theirs is the most identical (a bit like how Saeed Anwar's was the closest to Lara's). Amla is probably more graceful to watch square cutting than Yusuf, but their cover drives are equally classy.

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 20:53 GMT

    @xolile....on Amla being from Pakistani- I dont see how. His grandparents are from Surat which is still a part of INdia and Gujarat...as to how his parents would act your supposition is strange...because we still have lot of Muslim cricketers including Pathan brothers who are from Gujarat...

  • POSTED BY Paulk on | April 4, 2012, 19:07 GMT

    Very nice article. Hashim Amla has quickly become one of my favorite batsmen. Long may he continue. Considering his elegant style of play, his strike rate in ODI is indeed phenomenal (not to mention his batting average). I use to absolutely love watching David Gower bat and VVS, Mark Waugh, Zaheer Abbas are of the same ilk. One batsman not usually mentioned amongst this group of elegant, aesthetic batsmanship but who deserves to be, I feel, is Viv Richards. Probably because of the power behind his shots. But look at some photos or videos - he had that same elegant, supremely balanced strike and superb timing. His shots all seemed effortless and casual. The power was disguised as elegance. When he was not powering the ball it was all timing and sometimes he would simply defend with perfect balance and pose for no apparent reason other than that it pleased him.

  • POSTED BY PDTM on | April 4, 2012, 18:17 GMT

    Nobody mentioned Steve Smith?

  • POSTED BY BellCurve on | April 4, 2012, 18:08 GMT

    One more thing: Amla is Pakistani, not Indian. His ancestors left Gujarat more than 100 years ago. Given what happened during Partition, he would have ended up on the Pakistani side of the divide.

  • POSTED BY BellCurve on | April 4, 2012, 17:51 GMT

    @Spelele - have to agree with you. Laxman failed to capitalise against Zim, NZ, Ban and WI. But his performances against Eng, Aus, SA and SL - the best teams of his era, were remarkable. His overall record belies his true ability. Maybe that is the burden of batting at No5 in a star-studded Indian batting line-up. When the going is easy, the other guys fill their boots. But when the going gets tough it is up to you to deliver. VVS certiainly did that. He delivered when the going got tough.

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 17:14 GMT

    In world/ subcontinent nobody is near dust to Sunil Gavaskar in terms of technique,style,grace n class above all how he faced deadly bowling of invincible windies when they r top of their world without helmet,winning test series for India.

  • POSTED BY Sarfaraz.ar on | April 4, 2012, 17:04 GMT

    Just a list of some cricketers in the 60s and 70s who looked beautiful and strolled through their careers, the timers and caressers, the ones I saw... Sobers above all, Kanhai, Paul Sheahen, Greg Chapple, Majid Khan, Vishwanath, Pollock based on one innings in 1970. These are the ones who have not been mentioned above. I would love to put Viv in the list, but at times he seemed so bombastic and dominant that it detracted from the beauty of batting on a stroll. There were equivalent fast bowlers who created the same impression like Holding and Procter.

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 14:08 GMT

    I though Aravinda De Silva missed the list by a whisker. He could play with a straight bat with elegance and can also hit the cricket ball as hard as anybody.

  • POSTED BY MrGarreth on | April 4, 2012, 13:51 GMT

    Amla's square cut and cover drive leave me breatheless. Truly exquisite.

  • POSTED BY spickandspan on | April 4, 2012, 13:46 GMT

    I don't quite know why some are mentioning Youhana or Anwar when the most stylish of modern Pakistani batsmen is undeniably Zaheer Abbas. I suspect this is more due to an age issue of a few posters not actually seeing the batsmen play.

    Rob Steen does raise a valid argument here; there is something intrinsically esoteric about batsmanship for while we all covert and hord records and stats there is nothing that can compare to actually watching the game itself. While Cook will probably smash all English batting records would I choose to watch him over Amiss? Not at all.

    People tend to define this split as people not appreciating the true spirit of the game but I entirely disagree with this! Barrington remains one of the greatest modern English batsmen but would the idea of turning up to watch him score a ton over for example Dexter fill me as a young lad with excitement of course not and I think it would be churlish not to agknowlegde this almost primitive desire to be titillated!

  • POSTED BY AllroundCricketFan on | April 4, 2012, 13:40 GMT

    Amla and AB are the 2 of the most exciting cricketers we are seeing in a long time. And to think both are yet to peak... Scary times....

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 13:32 GMT

    No article on timing is complete with Sourav Ganguly's inclusion, IMO. Otherwise well written. Amla is brilliant!

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 13:29 GMT

    Mohammad Yousuf may have averaged 30 in SA and Australia, I really don't care. People like to nitpick about statistics. You can always find some fault if you look deep enough. Yousuf was a great.

    In defense of Rob Steen, you can't mention them all.

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 13:28 GMT

    Being a cricket fan, I think richard was the most dominating batsman I ever saw and Mohammad Yousuf was the most stylish I saw. I like these two batsman out of 100+ I have seen. Everyone has his own opinion I disagree with author for not including Yousuf.

  • POSTED BY Spelele on | April 4, 2012, 13:07 GMT

    Of course Laxman gets a mention ahead of Yousuf. While the latter oozed a certain degree of class no doubt, the former displayed his skills against the best attacks of his time (i.e. mostly Australian attacks, and to a lesser extent against Saffers). Yousuf's paltry averages against the best disqualify him from being mentioned in this article. Amla, though, trumps both Yousuf and Laxman because he has both Laxman's class, and Yousuf's consistency (when he was playing England). Amla and AB are destined to become greats of the game (and will be considered to be weigh ahead of the likes of Tendulkar, Kallis, Dravid etc by the time they retire). We are lucky to see them live :)

  • POSTED BY AllroundCricketFan on | April 4, 2012, 12:59 GMT

    Amla is without a doubt one of the best batsmen to grace the game. What did baffle me was CSA not selecting him sooner in ODI setup?? Hi strike rate and average in ODI format is phenomenal coupled with him being the number 1 ODI bat in the world. Anyways, looking forward to him playing England in the summer and watching those elegant stokes. Should be a cracker. Great article Rob. Hats off to you.

  • POSTED BY UAETigers on | April 4, 2012, 12:51 GMT

    Rob, you missed elegant and classy Pakistani cricketers and that's not true. There is a long list of stylish, compact and very very special Pakistani players like,

    Zaheer Abbas (Runs making machine), Mohammad Yousuf (The lazy elegance), Saeed Anwar (Classical left hander) and lots other.

    Mohammad Yousuf should be rated as classy and as stylish and if you see Hashim Amla batting it clearly reminds of 70% Yousuf's style and grace! No one in the world ever had such a high back-lift for such a long and successfull test carrier. We respect cricinfo writers but please don't write in a way that feels biased. Note:- I am also a very big fan of Very Very Special Luxman.

  • POSTED BY RandyOZ on | April 4, 2012, 12:32 GMT

    Hashim Amla is a gun who doesnt appear to have an obvious weakness. Am hoping Khawaja can emulate him!

  • POSTED BY gimme-a-greentop on | April 4, 2012, 12:17 GMT

    @jonesy2...I think most people feel the same about the vast majority of your posts...humour mixed with outrage...you are good at that...

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 12:15 GMT

    is it a coincidence that all crying for Yousuf's inclusion belong to a particular section of society ?

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 12:10 GMT

    Glad to see Amla get the credit he richly deserves, but what's an article about grace and timing among batsmen without mention of one RG Pollock? That man made batting look easier than tripping blindfolded toddlers. One sometimes expected him to yawn in mid-drive, so nonchalant did everything seem when he was at the crease.

  • POSTED BY mikey76 on | April 4, 2012, 12:03 GMT

    Yes as ever great article. Something tells me Mohammed Yousef is popular in Asia! I think a mention should go to Michael Vaughan too. His batting in Australia in 2002/3 was some of the best by any player who toured there during that era. Probably the most beautiful cover driver of his time.

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 11:43 GMT

    @sugan, he averaged more than 100 in Eng where recently all the great batsmen were really struggling....lolzz

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 11:38 GMT

    @sugan, this particular article is only about the classy batsmen, not about the batting average, btw Yousuf has a far better batting average than Laxman, but here it doesn't matter. look at his stats in Eng where laxman was all struggling..in Aus Laxman's 167 don't have any significance because india had already almost lost that test when his onslought began...Yousuf had the most sublime touch in my book....and also he was far more successful in the limited over cricket, where laxman was even not the regular figure, infact he was in-out kind of player...Interms of pure class yousuf was no.1 in modern cricket without any doubt...

  • POSTED BY AmeerAhmad on | April 4, 2012, 11:34 GMT

    exceptional player, classy style, beautiful bat blade = love

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 10:13 GMT

    mohammed yousuf averaged less than 30 in SA and Aus.... hes not worth mentioning...

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 9:27 GMT

    I can't believe you rated laxman as the standard of grace and didn't even mention Muhammad Yousuf! ask the english bowlers!

  • POSTED BY razaqaiser on | April 4, 2012, 9:24 GMT

    Rob.. you robbed the place of Muhammad Yousaf in your list. You must have to recall his 25 hundreds and specially those scored in England. He is one of the best while driving in the covers or a drive to mid on. In my books he stands in the list of all the stylish batsmen in the world.

  • POSTED BY jonesy2 on | April 4, 2012, 8:58 GMT

    couldnt help but laugh. very amusing article indeed. lost it when i saw bopara's name.

  • POSTED BY Sulli001 on | April 4, 2012, 8:32 GMT

    I have alway felt that the pose struck at the completion of a prefect cover drive is telling the bowler to go and get the ball and try again.

    Mohammad Yousuf I would put in the same class...as he was all class!!

  • POSTED BY shaannnnnn on | April 4, 2012, 7:46 GMT

    how can you forget saeed anwer and muhammad yousaf???

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 7:25 GMT

    whatever success one can get in their career, but currently there is no-one in world cricket who can match "Mohammad Yousuf" in terms of sheer elegance, silicon touch & gracious class.....

  • POSTED BY MIRAJ_huq on | April 4, 2012, 7:18 GMT

    quite doubt your sense of cricket. sublime cover drives with footwork can be more associated with Mark Waugh, Damien Martin, Md. Yousuf. Hashim Amla is quite good and lot more stylish the laxman, especially with the footworks. btw, the articles boring to read too.

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 7:04 GMT

    rob, it is very incomplete article....how u missed even a mention of "Mohammad Yousuf". he was such a silicon touch...i m an indian and a very passionate about cricket and a regular follower of every kind of cricket across the globe since 1996 wc..i hav seen numerous classy batsmen, but Yousuf is at top of them..only Demian Martim came close to him in terms of class..and also Martin's career was so small..Yes, ofcourse Laxman,Amla,Dravid,Zaheer Abbas,Sachin,Mahela,Azhar,Inzi,arvinda,Mark Waugh etc are/were class act, but in terms of real class & grace, nobody can match the man "Mohammad Yousuf". Special Mention: Here i m talking only about right handed batsman.

  • POSTED BY wasim_007 on | April 4, 2012, 6:54 GMT

    The Article is useless without inclusion of Mohammad Yousuf (Yohana)...

  • POSTED BY kurups on | April 4, 2012, 6:38 GMT

    great list of stylish players Rob..yeah Mark Waugh and VVS are the ultimately stylish carresser's of the cricket ball!..and quite truly Hashim Amla is almost as good as them. what a player! Can we get a cricinfo vote for the 10 best stylish cricketers of all time picked by the panel? should be interesting stuff.

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 6:29 GMT

    Mohammad Yousuf ....you missed out on a big name....he had a silken grace....it was awesome....

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 6:16 GMT

    Laxan is a great player. But the author is too unrealistic on praising him.... Doesn't feel like reading the whole article....

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 6:11 GMT

    vvs lakshman and hashim amla are pretty much the same kinda batsman the only difference is the way in which they are handled by their respective cricket boards.. southafrica realized the importance of amla and made him a regualr in odi outfit too... where as bcci tagged lakshman as "test player" limiting his odi appearances to 86....talent wasted

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 5:51 GMT

    No doubt, Amla is class act. I am sure that by the time he hangs up his boots he would have achieved so much more for himself and of course for his beloved team. It's a real pleasure to watch this man bat in Test matches, while in ODIs he's no different in his sublime act of batting. The only difference, however, is his strike rate. I wonder how he maintains the strike rate of over 90 in ODIs without playing any flashy shots. He's my man to watch out, destined to be one of the greats to grace the game, along with his own team mate AB De Villers.

  • POSTED BY Nadeem1976 on | April 4, 2012, 5:48 GMT

    I think we are missing one name here mohammad yousaf. He was stylish too like Amla. I call batsmen like amla , lazy elegance they hit the ball with so easy that even ball loves that hitting. Sweet sound of willow and ball goes to extra cover for four.

    I don't think i have seen more stylish left hander than david gover in my life. Mark waugh was great timer of the ball on on side. Sachin straight drive is best ever and mos stylish. Zaheer abas was elegant batsman too. Azhar wrist play was great. VVS is very very special, he can hit any ball toward boundry not even moving his feet. just hit the middle of that bat and here it goes. Too special.

  • POSTED BY CricIndia208 on | April 4, 2012, 5:34 GMT

    Thanks Rob for a great piece. IMHO, Mark Waugh is the most elegant batsmen ever. That guy never got his due.

  • POSTED BY TheDoctor394 on | April 4, 2012, 3:49 GMT

    A lovely ode to a very, very impressive batsman.

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  • POSTED BY TheDoctor394 on | April 4, 2012, 3:49 GMT

    A lovely ode to a very, very impressive batsman.

  • POSTED BY CricIndia208 on | April 4, 2012, 5:34 GMT

    Thanks Rob for a great piece. IMHO, Mark Waugh is the most elegant batsmen ever. That guy never got his due.

  • POSTED BY Nadeem1976 on | April 4, 2012, 5:48 GMT

    I think we are missing one name here mohammad yousaf. He was stylish too like Amla. I call batsmen like amla , lazy elegance they hit the ball with so easy that even ball loves that hitting. Sweet sound of willow and ball goes to extra cover for four.

    I don't think i have seen more stylish left hander than david gover in my life. Mark waugh was great timer of the ball on on side. Sachin straight drive is best ever and mos stylish. Zaheer abas was elegant batsman too. Azhar wrist play was great. VVS is very very special, he can hit any ball toward boundry not even moving his feet. just hit the middle of that bat and here it goes. Too special.

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 5:51 GMT

    No doubt, Amla is class act. I am sure that by the time he hangs up his boots he would have achieved so much more for himself and of course for his beloved team. It's a real pleasure to watch this man bat in Test matches, while in ODIs he's no different in his sublime act of batting. The only difference, however, is his strike rate. I wonder how he maintains the strike rate of over 90 in ODIs without playing any flashy shots. He's my man to watch out, destined to be one of the greats to grace the game, along with his own team mate AB De Villers.

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 6:11 GMT

    vvs lakshman and hashim amla are pretty much the same kinda batsman the only difference is the way in which they are handled by their respective cricket boards.. southafrica realized the importance of amla and made him a regualr in odi outfit too... where as bcci tagged lakshman as "test player" limiting his odi appearances to 86....talent wasted

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 6:16 GMT

    Laxan is a great player. But the author is too unrealistic on praising him.... Doesn't feel like reading the whole article....

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 6:29 GMT

    Mohammad Yousuf ....you missed out on a big name....he had a silken grace....it was awesome....

  • POSTED BY kurups on | April 4, 2012, 6:38 GMT

    great list of stylish players Rob..yeah Mark Waugh and VVS are the ultimately stylish carresser's of the cricket ball!..and quite truly Hashim Amla is almost as good as them. what a player! Can we get a cricinfo vote for the 10 best stylish cricketers of all time picked by the panel? should be interesting stuff.

  • POSTED BY wasim_007 on | April 4, 2012, 6:54 GMT

    The Article is useless without inclusion of Mohammad Yousuf (Yohana)...

  • POSTED BY on | April 4, 2012, 7:04 GMT

    rob, it is very incomplete article....how u missed even a mention of "Mohammad Yousuf". he was such a silicon touch...i m an indian and a very passionate about cricket and a regular follower of every kind of cricket across the globe since 1996 wc..i hav seen numerous classy batsmen, but Yousuf is at top of them..only Demian Martim came close to him in terms of class..and also Martin's career was so small..Yes, ofcourse Laxman,Amla,Dravid,Zaheer Abbas,Sachin,Mahela,Azhar,Inzi,arvinda,Mark Waugh etc are/were class act, but in terms of real class & grace, nobody can match the man "Mohammad Yousuf". Special Mention: Here i m talking only about right handed batsman.