Amla quits vice-captaincy, steps away from T20
Hashim Amla has stepped down as South Africa's limited-overs vice-captain* and has asked not to play any Twenty20 cricket in 2013. He informed team management he will take a decision on his involvement in the shortest format by December and Gary Kirsten, South Africa's coach, confirmed that Amla's request had been granted.
Amla's decision to relinquish the vice-captaincy came after Wednesday's announcement that Faf du Plessis had been named T20 captain, taking over from AB de Villiers who asked to stand down.
"It is unfair of me to wear the vice-captaincy cap if I am uncomfortable of taking over from AB when I am needed," Amla said. "Captaincy has always been an exploratory area of my cricket but after being at the helm for three ODIs and a few T20s I feel it's time to groom a successor who has leadership potential.
"It has been a privilege to lead my country on the occasions that I have been captain, but I look forward to contributing to the team as a batsman. I will continue to play my part as an advisor in the team and will remain active on the field as a senior player."
Last month Amla confirmed he was considering relinquishing the vice-captaincy across both shorter formats. He acknowledged there was "no point," in him continuing in the role because he is not comfortable stepping up to be captain when needed.
Amla did not take over from de Villiers during the New Zealand T20 series last December when the gloveman asked for a break because of the schedule. He also did not stand in for him during the ODIs in January when de Villiers was suspended for a slow over rate. Du Plessis was the captain in both instances and looked more comfortable than Amla or de Villiers has in the role.
Since Amla was named vice-captain in July 2011, he has done the job some of the time albeit reluctantly. He captained South Africa in T20s and ODIs against Australia in October 2011 when de Villiers was injured and took an experimental T20 side to play in an unofficial tri-series in Zimbabwe in June 2012.
Amla also became a regular member of the T20 squad in that time. He had only played three T20s before he became vice-captain because he was initially considered a longer-form player only. His rise to No. 1 in the ODI batting rankings showed that assumption to be incorrect and Amla was hopeful he could translate that into T20 cricket as well.
He opened the batting in 12 matches from October 2011 and was part of South Africa's World T20 campaign in Sri Lanka last September. In that time, Amla managed a top-score of 47 against England in Manchester. He was unable to form a successful opening partnership with Richard Levi, who was woefully out of form and South Africa often left their middle-order exposed. That was the last time Amla was part of a national T20 squad.
"I've requested to take a sabbatical from International T20 cricket for the year," Amla said. "My decision was influenced by the hectic international schedule and this will give me more room to manage my time between the formats more constructively. T20 cricket remains a format that I enjoy, and I hope I can make meaningful contributions domestically when I have the opportunity while continuing to harness my T20 game. I still have hopes of playing for South Africa in the future and will re-visit the decision at a later stage."
When South Africa returned from the World T20, after being knocked out before the semi-final stage, Kirsten hinted there would be major changes made to their T20 squad. Before the New Zealand series, Kirsten handed the coaching reins over to his assistant Russell Domingo who was put in charge of a young unit. Amla asked to be rested for the New Zealand matches in order to concentrate on his Test batting.
A new opener, Henry Davids, was given a debut and scored two half-centuries in three matches. Du Plessis was promoted to the top order to join Davids when Levi was dropped for the final match of that series. Du Plessis has previously said he prefers opening in T20s after he was given a chance in the position while at the Chennai Super Kings.
Considering that du Plessis is now the captain and will have more say in his own role and Davids' potential and form, it is difficult to see how Amla will fit into the T20 squad. He seems to have realised that before being told and may concentrate on the other two versions instead.
* February 21, 1200 GMT: updated to include confirmation of Amla stepping down from vice-captaincy, plus quotes
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent