Amla ready to plug leadership gap
The retirements of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis and the subsequent loss of experience from the South African squad is the primary reason behind Hashim Amla making himself available for the job of Test captain. Amla informed South Africa's selection panel he could be considered alongside AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy to replace Smith as leader for Tests and is expected to be seriously considered for the role.
"A lot has changed over the last few months," Amla said in an interview with South Africa's Radio 2000. "Graeme has retired, Jacques has retired. I have always stayed away from taking the leadership role but now that we have lost two core members I think it is a good time for me, if appointed, to add value to the team."
Amla's interest in the job comes as a surprise because he has been reluctant to captain in the past. He asked to be relieved of the duty when he was put in charge of the Dolphins franchise after one season, 2004-05, to concentrate on his batting and also relinquished the vice-captaincy of the limited-overs sides last February.
Now in his 10th year as an international cricketer, Amla feels he has enough experience to take on a little extra in all respects. Like Smith, who called time on his 11-year career partly because of the needs of his young family, Amla also has young children but said he would be happy dividing his time for now.
"Though cricket does form a deep part of a person's life, everything else carries on," he said. "The children are here and running around - being a father is something you can't really explain but it has helped develop some other skills that could be used on a cricket field. I am really grateful the family has been supportive as it is quite challenging and we travel a lot."
While Amla admitted he was "not too sure" what the impact of captaining would be on his batting, he maintained scoring runs will remain a key focus. "I have always tried to establish myself as a batsman first. Hopefully I can try and manage both," Amla said. "I am confident I can try and balance the two because on the field, I have always felt my mind is active and I try and contribute to ideas."
Amla's more vocal approach, particularly behind the scenes, was the first clue he would like to be more involved in the think tank. He explained he will continue to form part of that group irrespective of who is chosen as Test captain, because he, de Villiers, who has also expressed his readiness to take on the role, du Plessis and Duminy share an understanding. "Whoever is captain, I don't think it will change my approach. We have a great bunch of senior guys who rely on and feed off each other," he said.
"The speculation over who will be the next captain doesn't affect our relationship. We have been playing for quite a long time and we have a good relationship. It's not about who is captain or who is not captain; it's about what's good for the team. If the powers that be deem someone else to be in a better position to captain, then brilliant."
Amla admitted South Africa had been through a "challenging season" and hinted that he expects it to remain tough. Following their first series defeat in five years, to Australia at home in March, and the annual update of the ICC's rankings, South Africa fell a fraction of a point below Australia and the new captain's most pressing task would be close that gap.
"The top three or four teams are pretty evenly matched," he said. "We also had a few challenges with Graeme and Jacques retiring but now, as a team we have to find a way of playing without those two colossal figures."
In many ways, Amla voicing interest in the captaincy is the start of that process and is thought to have sparked debate among the selection panel. The South African selectors will continue debating who they would like to recommend as the next captain over the next two weeks. Once they have made their choice, they will refer it to the CSA board who will either ratify or reject it. An announcement on who the successful candidate will be is expected in early June.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent