The ability to command respect, control a dressing room and encourage calm through actions rather than words will define Hashim Amla's captaincy, according to two former Test players he has led before. Imraan Khan and Mfuneko Ngam were part of the Dolphins' squad Amla took to the domestic first-class competition title in the 2004-05 season and both believe he will make an astute and authoritative national leader, but not in the obvious ways we have come to expect of Test captains.
"I don't think he will shout much - at the guys in his own team and the opposition - so it will be different, but that could be a good thing," Khan told ESPNcricinfo. "We all know he is relaxed and calm in the way he goes about things."
While Amla's predecessor, Graeme Smith - and captains through the ages from Ricky Ponting to MS Dhoni - led through presence, Amla is expected to do the same by example. "His lifestyle is something that will make him a good captain. He is disciplined and quiet and goes about his own business. Guys respect him," Ngam said. "Sometimes quiet guys are more powerful."
Amla's silent strength was evident from a young age according to childhood friend Khan, who played alongside Amla from under-13 level. "He has always been a mature guy which is why he was always involved in leadership through the age-groups," Khan said. "I always thought he could become a Test captain."
Despite Amla's reluctance to involve himself in leadership in the past, Khan remembered that he took to the role easily as a youngster. Amla was only 22 years old when he was put in charge of the Dolphins and he managed to assert himself over an outfit filled with experienced players including Lance Klusener, Dale Benkenstein and, albeit only for two matches, Shaun Pollock.
There, he set the example mainly through his own performances. The Dolphins lost only one game that season and shared the trophy with the Eagles after a high-scoring drawin which Amla top-scored with 249.
"We (the Dolphins) had quite a senior squad that season and the way he controlled the dressing room, especially for a young guy was impressive," Khan said. "It also cut both ways. To have all those guys around, guys like Benky, would have helped Hashim as a young captain."
The South African team Amla will take charge of now is fairly similar in composition to the franchise he led a decade ago. Although the Test squad is in transition, there is still an experienced core made up of AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis. Having dealt with a similar situation in the past, both Khan and Ngam think Amla is well positioned to understand the dynamics of it again, especially as he is now satisfied with the progression of his own ability.
"Then, he was still young and working hard on his own game. He was concerned about things like his technique but even with that, in team meetings he had a lot of input," Ngam said. "Obviously leading the country is a different thing, it comes with different pressures and there are more things to do off the field than on it but I expect him to make a good captain. He doesn't get intimidated easily and his knowledge of the game is very good."
The time Amla spent fine-tuning his own approach contributed to the way he thinks about and reads the game. Khan said despite his reserved public persona, Amla is outspoken behind the scenes where he enjoys getting involved in strategy and tactics. "He is not the kind of guy that will let the game just drift away. He is always thinking and his mind is always ticking," Khan said. "He'll have good plans in place and he knows how to execute them."
More than a loud leader, a thinking one could be what South Africa needs over the next few months.