South Africa news June 2, 2014

Amla likely to take Test reins

Hashim Amla is expected to be announced as South Africa's next Test captain when the new leader is unveiled following a CSA board meeting tomorrow. Amla, who made a trip back home from his stint with Surrey for the CSA awards on Wednesday, made himself available for the job last month and is considered the frontrunner for the role, ahead of AB de Villiers.

In addition to announcing the new Test captain on Tuesday, South Africa will also name their ODI and Test squads for next month's tour of Sri Lanka. Kallis, who still aims to play in the 2015 World Cup, should be part of the fifty-over outfit, and there are some new faces expected among the Test players. A rookie spinner, in either Simon Harmer or Dane Piedt, is likely to travel to Sri Lanka and a specialist batsman could also be part of the touring party. Stiaan van Zyl, Quinton de Kock and Justin Ontong are among the candidates under consideration.

Amla's surprise interest in the job was made public after CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat urged the national selectors not to have an "automatic choice" for Graeme Smith's successor and to consider all options. By then, de Villiers had already declared himself "ready" for the role and was widely thought to be competing with Faf du Plessis, who is now effectively out of contention.

Du Plessis leads the Twenty20 side and, although his Test-match temperament has been impressive, he is a relative newcomer to the longest format. The experience of de Villiers and Amla, who have both been international cricketers for 10 years and have played 168 Tests between them, made them more viable options. Amla is expected to get the nod over de Villiers, in part because South Africa want to "maintain the stability of the side by retaining de Villiers as wicket-keeper and not forcing him to give up the gloves to captain," according to an insider, and despite Amla's initial reluctance to captain.

But last month Amla u-turned on that and explained he saw a gap, caused by the retirements of Smith and Jacques Kallis, which he could fill. "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," he said in a radio interview.

It is believed Amla was convinced to make himself available by administrators who hope to tick two boxes by appointing him. It will also ease the political pressure on CSA to accelerate the rate of transformation.

Although there are no official quotas placed on national teams, there is an expectancy from government that sports federations will show a commitment to change. Before South Africa's general elections last month, sports minister Fikile Mbalula threatened to impose a 60% player of colour quota on all teams and those who failed to meet it could risk not receiving government funding and being banned from competing internationally. Mbalula, who remains in the post after the new cabinet was announced, retracted that demand but has met with officials across various sporting codes, including cricket and rugby, to reach common ground on their plans to transform.

But sources have cautioned against seeing Amla's likely appointment as solely based on transformation goals. "He is highly respected in the team so I don't think there is any aspect of colour that comes into it," one insider said. "And even if it is mentioned, Hashim has had to deal with this type of thing before. If he is appointed, it is above and beyond colour and he will know that."

Rushdie Magiet, a former convener of selectors, agreed and told ESPNcricinfo, he thinks Amla has the ability to "bring the team together" as they head through a transition phase.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent