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June 3, 2014
Moonda: Big shoes to fill for Amla
Hashim Amla has been appointed South Africa's Test captain, taking over from Graeme Smith, who retired in March. Amla's first assignment will be South Africa's two-Test tour of Sri Lanka next month. He was given the job ahead of team-mate AB de Villiers, who will continue to lead the ODI side in which Amla will serve as his deputy. De Villiers will remain the Test vice-captain and the first-choice wicketkeeper in the longest format.
"It's an honour and a privilege," Amla said, "I have to pay tribute to Graeme and his leadership. For years, I've concentrated on my batting, but now it's time to contribute in the team setting. As a captain, you are more a servant than you are a leader. I will be taking it as my responsibility to give all my heart to this position."
A notoriously reluctant leader, who even stepped down as vice-captain in the limited-overs teams last year, Amla's interest in the Test role only became public a few weeks ago, but it is a thought he has harboured since Smith stood down.
"When Graeme retired, it came as a surprise to us, especially with him being a young person but we could also understand because of the pressures of being a captain for so long," Amla said. "At that moment, I felt with the group of senior guys we have in the team - myself, AB, Dale, JP, Morne and Faf - that if the team wanted, I would be available.
"That was the first time I really considered it. Hopefully with the experience I have gained, I can do a good job. If you can add value to your team-mates, try and get the team to do well and the country to do well, that's the ultimate as an international sportsman."
But Amla admitted it is not a task he will take on alone: "It is always a collective effort. There is no single person who should be taking the credit. Every single person has a huge part to play. I will be picking people's brains, guys in the team and guys outside the team."
De Villiers will be one of the pillars Amla will lean on heavily, especially as the ODI captain was considered a shoo-in for the job when it first became vacant. Former players, including Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis, as well as former convener of selectors Mike Procter had all picked de Villiers as Smith's successor but South Africa's current selection panel decided against overloading him, although they remain concerned about having different captains in each format.
"There were some strong contenders, not only AB de Villiers," Hudson said. "We've now got three captains in three formats and that is perhaps not ideal. But we have a very skewed season ahead of us with 30 ODIs, including the World Cup. So this next season, the focus is on one-day cricket. What AB has achieved with Russell in the one-day side and the gelling of that team going forward is something we did not want to disrupt. Hashim will complement AB in terms of his style and what he wants to do with the one-day side, just as AB will complement Hash in the Test arena. AB will continue to keep wicket in Tests and that also gives us nice options."
Amla played down concerns that the additional burden would affect him, and emphasised on a goal of leading South Africa back to position of the No. 1 Test ranked team.
"I am positive that it won't affect my batting and I hope it doesn't," he said. "I will try and score as many if not more runs.
"Any Test team wants to be ranked No.1. We've had that privilege but having lost it is a fair reflection of how we have played. We haven't played our best cricket over the last year or so. It is a proud thing to be ranked No.1. Foremost in my mind is to try and get us back there."
Amla does not anticipate major changes to put South Africa back on a winning track, given their history. "Over the last few years, the team has gelled extremely well," he said. "It is a high-performing Test team. We've been in the best in the world, apart from recently. I don't think there is too much change that needs to be done from that point of view."
However, he has cautioned against expecting immediate success, especially given where his first tour in charge will be. South Africa travel to Sri Lanka for two Tests next month, returning to the place where they last lost a Test series on the road, eight years ago.
"Not many teams go to Sri Lanka and dominate," Amla said. "It's a newish team with a few new names. It took the previous team a few years before we found a winning combination. It will be naive to think it won't take time before we find another winning combination."
Also searching for that right formula is South Africa's coach Russell Domingo, who will be working with a fourth captain barely a year into his tenure. Fortunately, for Domingo, his relationship with Amla stretches back more than a decade from the national academy.
"I have known him for a long time and I am excited about working with him," Domingo said. "His style will be different to what we have become accustomed to.
"We discuss a lot of things, not just about cricket but also life. It's not important that you agree on everything, respect is important. We don't always agree on everything but we have a lot of respect for each other and we value each other's opinions. It's a very exciting time. Hashim says it is time for him to contribute in a senior way. He has made a massive impact as a senior player so this is an extension of what he has quietly been doing behind the scenes."
Amla will continue wearing a team shirt without the sponsor's logo. Castle Lager, a beer company, backs the Test team and CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat has explained the board will "meet the obligations of its commercial partners through other players."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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