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The Lowdown

The latest bearded wonder

The Lowdown on Hashim Amla, who has grabbed his second chance at international cricket

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
04-May-2006
With so much cricket played these days it is often difficult to keep track of who is who and what they are doing. In this weekly feature Cricinfo will take a look at one player who is making the news, whether at the highest level or as an aspiring talent, and tell you what they are all about. This week, it's the turn of Hashim Amla, South Africa's latest batting anchor.


Hashim Amla grabbed his second chance with a battling 149 against New Zealand last week © Getty Images
Lots of players fail to take to Test cricket at the first time of asking, but it is the second chance that really makes the difference. Hashim Amla certainly grabbed with both hands his opportunity of a recall to international cricket, scoring a battling 149 against New Zealand which went a long way towards maintaining South Africa's 1-0 lead in the series.
There has always been added interest surrounding Amla's career because of his background and the composition of South Africa's sides. When he was selected for the 2004-05 tour of India it came on the back of a ruling that the squad would include five non-white players. But Amla was there on merit following a series of centuries for Kwa-Zulu Natal and South Africa A.
When he debuted at Calcutta he became the first cricketer of Indian descent to represent the national team. At the time he said: "If I get the opportunity to play Test cricket, I will be walking on to the field as a South African. My blood is green."
Although domestic runs had never been a problem, like many players before him and, no doubt, many who will follow, it was the step up in class that exposed him. He was found out by the England pace attack during the 2004-05 series when Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard exploited a dangerous technique that involved a crouched position at the crease and a bat which came down from gully. But he went away and worked on the issues with Gary Kirsten and his efforts have been rewarded.
Amla forced his way back into contention through sheer weight of runs in South Africa's domestic competition. In the 2005-06 season he scored 893 runs at 55 and when Herschelle Gibbs was dropped from the squad, after losing track of where his stumps were, Amla returned at No. 3.
His style is still not straight from the coaching manual and a true assessment of how far he has come can't be made until he has faced an attack with real pace to test his skill against the short ball.
For now, though, never mind the talk of flat pitches and gentle bowling attacks, Amla did what he had to do and can look forward to an extended run at the top table.
Timeline
December 1999
Makes first-class debut for Kwa-Zulu Natal against the touring England team.
February 2001
Tours New Zealand with South Africa Under-19s.
January 2002
Captains South Africa U-19s at the World Cup in New Zealand.
October 2004
Strikes four centuries for Kwa-Zulu Natal and South Africa A, earning a Test debut against India at Calcutta and scores 24 before being bowled by Irfan Pathan.
December 2004
Misses the first Test against England, but is selected for the matches at Durban and CapeTown
January 2005
Dropped from the Test squad after Cape Town, as he makes just 36 runs in four innings.
April 2006
Recalled to the South African team after consistent domestic performances and scores his first Test century at Cape Town against New Zealand.
What he said - after scoring his century
"When I'm batting, I try to concentrate on what I'm doing and stay as calm as I can. I always try to keep it simple. I was disappointed to go out on 149 - no-one wants to go out on 149. But I was happy with my first century. I hope it will be a long Test career, and maybe if I can score 50 centuries in my career, no one will question my technique."
What they said No. 1
"I think it's hugely important that we get pioneers from all the different cultures that play cricket." - Omar Henry, then the chairman of selectors, on Amla's 2004 debut
What they said No. 2
"It's only since the nineties that opportunities have become more widely available to all South Africans. Hashim was lucky that, just at the time when he was growing up, everything had begun to change. There was a system in place and if you had talent, you could make it." - Dr Mahomed H Amla, Hashim's father, on his son breaking into the Test team
What you may not know
Amla has requested that he doesn't wear any sponsorship logos on his playing kit that relate to alcohol as it goes against his religion.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo