South Africa in Sri Lanka 2014 June 29, 2014

Amla focussed on ODIs before Test captaincy

ESPNcricinfo staff

Hashim Amla, who will lead South Africa for the first time in the two Tests in Sri Lanka, has said his initial focus is on performing as a batsman in the three ODIs that precede the Tests. Highlighting the challenges that await in Sri Lanka, a place where South Africa have not done well in the past, Amla hoped the team would draw from their collective subcontinent experience in dealing with the conditions.

"Although I have had a few weeks to give the captaincy a little bit more thought, but nothing much has changed," Amla said. "I think a lot will change once the series starts, but up until then, my focus mentally is on the one-day series. Fortunately, I was in the UK playing county cricket in preparation for this tour, but in my mind I have been thinking about the ODIs and hopefully we can make amends. The captaincy will come at a later stage.

"Two matches, I am quite happy about it. Sri Lanka is a tough place to tour. From a rankings perspective, we have dropped to No. 2, but that is not at the forefront of our objectives. We would love to be there [No. 1] as soon as possible but with the kind of new make-up team that we have, it's important to find a winning formula first and things will fall into place later."

In three bilateral ODI series in Sri Lanka since 2000, South Africa have managed just one win in 13 matches. The team's record in Tests has not been good either during this period - one win in seven matches. However, they did win the T20s in their limited-overs tour to Sri Lanka last year and Russell Domingo, the South Africa coach, hoped to draw on that confidence.

"I know it's a different format but the way we finished the last two of the T20s. We beat them 2-1," Domingo said. "It was our first white-ball series win in Sri Lanka, so we can take the confidence from it that we have won a series in the shorter version in Sri Lanka.

"I know we lost 4-1 (in the ODIs) last year, but I can remember it as a strange tour. Hashim played one game, then he got sick, then he started playing the next game and broke a finger. So there were lot of disruptions, lot of injuries, and lot of inexperience. There was no Dale Steyn, no Jacques Kallis. Hashim missed a few games. And having that sort of quality will be a massive benefit. Last year was a learning experience for the young players and now we are fortunate to have some of the senior players back. Hopefully that will make a big impact."

South Africa were fortunate to get a match in Hambantota, a venue, Domingo said, that "suits" South Africa because of the extra pace and bounce in the pitch. He was, however, quick to emphasise the wider challenge of the conditions.

"The heat is stifling in Sri Lanka and your pace attack can only bowl short spells. It's anything but easy to bat in Sri Lanka. Very testing conditions, not just the heat, but the nature of the wickets - they are abrasive and it spins," Domingo said. "We have seen at night times sometimes, it does offer a little bit of movement. So losing early wickets is a possibility that exposes your middle order to their spin strength, which then puts your team under pressure. So it's not easy to bat in Sri Lanka."

Those batting challenges will extend into the Test series. Among the batsmen, only Amla and AB de Villiers have played a Test, the last of which was eight years ago, in Sri Lanka. While de Villiers scored 217 runs in four innings during the 2006 tour, it was a below average outing for Amla, who managed just 69 runs. Both batsmen have gained in stature since then but Amla said the Sri Lankan bowling, especially Rangana Herath, will be testing.

"We have always viewed Herath as a very good bowler, especially in Sri Lankan conditions," Amla said. "Malinga is not playing Tests anymore, so they have relied on Herath as their main wicket-taker. Let's not be forgetting or disrespecting to the other bowlers who have done really well for them, but Herath is a factor. If the wickets do turn, we will deal with it. We are fortunate that most of our batters have played in the subcontinent - we have beaten India - and Dubai and in Sri Lanka. Fortunately we have lot of experience and we will draw on that."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Steven on July 1, 2014, 3:32 GMT

    I think rasa have made Abig mistake in giving Amal the test captaincy devilliers n duplesis are to natural captains that one of them should of been test captain I think Alma's batting is going to be affected seriously by having to neglect his focus away from batting and worry a lot more about the team then himself that's a massive rsa are taking they run the risk of destroying Alma's career some players just don't need the burden of being captain Amal is one of them just like kallis chanderpaul Amal gets in to his own little world when he bats how's he going to do that when he has a lot of other thoughts to do with captaincy in the back of his mind I do hope Amal can cope with that but I have my doubts to be honest

  • Dummy4 on July 1, 2014, 3:10 GMT

    Regarding composition of SL team for the first test to counter whatever threat posed by SA pace/spin combination, I have this suggestion. We need to play a supporting frontline spinner to Herath. That will limit our bowling options to only two pacemen. Having done so well in England it is not fair to omit any one of the 3 pacemen who played in the Headingly test. Even if the wickets are unresponsive they should be knowing how to extract something out of them having brought up on such conditions. That means dropping one batsman. I will drop Thirimanne, regardless he is vice captain or not. If included he might show a false indication of his abilities by scratching around in these low bouncing wickets with no lateral movement and adding some runs. Chandimal should be retained at No. 6 as wicket keeper batsman. Dilruwan Perera who is no mug with the bat can go in at No.7. He is a promising young spinner and should be given more opportunities to establish himself in the test side.

  • Dummy4 on June 30, 2014, 12:12 GMT

    Hope Sri Lanka prepares some sporting pitches for the test matches. It is usual for teams to score upwards of 600 /700 in Colombo leading to boring draws.

    For the ODIs it is a give away. Sri Lankans will win hands down. The likes of Vernon Philander will be cannon fodder to the Lankans in the shorter format.

  • rob on June 30, 2014, 8:30 GMT

    I hope for Amla's sake he is a decent captain as it could affect his batting if he's not. It's a big job and not everyone can do it. Some have it, most don't. My theory is that if you take it on and it's not your bag it weighs so heavily on you that the rest of your game suffers. It happened to Tendilkar, so there can't be any shame in it. It's just one of those things. ... anyway, we'll see.

  • Dummy4 on June 30, 2014, 7:53 GMT

    We do not talk a lot of nonsense BEFORE a series , we give our opinions! We believe in performing on the field of play! No where have I read our players or management stating we going to go and win the series in SL! All they saying is what planning and preparations are being done for them to win! Simple !

  • John on June 30, 2014, 6:59 GMT

    I like Amla's approach. First ,you are a player, then captain. This is very good as he is not letting the pressure of captaincy get to him. This is exactly what Mahela's advice to Cook was, a few days back.

  • Nuwan on June 30, 2014, 5:57 GMT

    if I'm supposed to predict anything , I's say that it would be a entirely worthy series of full of tight,dramatic, pumped actions

  • Dummy on June 30, 2014, 5:47 GMT

    Sri lanka has to be careful, teams do lose concentrations after big wins. SA was resting and therefore they will play good cricket and could give surprises

  • Anver on June 30, 2014, 5:29 GMT

    A close battle is expected in ODI series in SL !!! "Amla's aim is to get a bright start with the bat in ODI's before the all important test series" that's not bad thinking for a fresher in a test captain's role !!! wishing Amla all success in this SL tour !!!!

  • Srilankan on June 30, 2014, 2:19 GMT

    SA probably got the best ODI squad these days. It's gonna be a very tough series for Sri Lanka. Good Luck Both Teams!

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