Hashim Amla not distracted by mini-milestone
When he made his debut at Eden Gardens six years ago, scoring just 62 runs in his first six Test innings, Hashim Amla couldn't think beyond the next game. Now that only 14 South Africans have more caps than him, Amla is just as focused on the next game, albeit for different reasons.
As is typical of the man, Amla is not letting the mini-milestone of 50 Tests, which will be brought up at his home ground in Dubran, distract him. "Playing any Test at my home ground is a special occasion," Amla said two days before the game. "Playing the 50th Test really doesn't put any more importance, to be honest with you. The team always comes first, and the fact that we are 1-0 up going into a big Test, if we can close the series, it takes precedence over any kind of distraction like a 50th Test.
"I think in the greater scheme of things, it is nothing compared to some of the other guys who have been really successful. I am really grateful."
More important, perhaps, would be to set the record straight at the Kingsmead, where he grew up playing, keeping attacks in the field for days. In five Tests here, Amla has reached 50 only once, and has an aggregate of 122 runs at an average of 13.55. "It'd be lovely if I can [score a century here]," he said. "My record hasn't been fantastic here in Test matches, but as I said I have always enjoyed playing at the Kingsmead. It would be lovely to make a contribution to the team cause here. It's a home ground so it would be a lovely feeling. I have been brought up on these wickets, paying for the Dolphins. I have got runs here. It will be nice to kind of chip in for the national team."
The surface here, he said, suits his game, and there is no such reason why he shouldn't play well here. "I've been very fortunate growing up on this wicket, with the bounce and the pace," Amla said. "I'm not sure how the Test wicket is going to play, but on a good day, when the wicket's flat, it's a fantastic place to play. The outfield's small and the boundaries are short and you get fantastic value for shots."
Amla said this is a great chance for South Africa to seal the series, and that's what they are focussing on. "A lot has been said about the wicket but at the end of the day, as a team, we try and keep things simple," he said. "Our bowlers and batsmen have been in good nick and hopefully we can continue in that vein. It's a big chance to seal the series, but as you can see it's hot and humid so it's going to be hard work."
Another reason why Amla would back himself to do well is the opposition. Against India, the native country of his grandfather, Amla has scored four centuries in the last three Tests, having been dismissed only twice. "It's quite funny actually," he said. "I really don't know what to say. I'm just grateful that I've had a good year so far, and the year is not over yet. At the end of the day it's the players who can perform consistently that stand out."
The pitch might be full of grass with two days to go, but India are likely to get good crowd support here. Amla said that is not going to be a big factor. "Whenever the Indians have played here they've had good support," he said. "But you know that in the middle it's a different ball game. They may have a bit more support here than in other places, but the game is played on the wicket and that's where you're going to need it."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo