Many years ago, one man saw the future more clearly than anyone else. His name was Andy Gray. He was the physiotherapist for the South African under-19 team which took part in the under-19 World Cup in New Zealand in 2002.
The Proteas national team were returning from their tour of Australia and happened to coincide with the youngsters as they returned from the tournament having reached the final. Gray had become a friend after a couple of years on the road and he spotted me across the Sydney Airport departures lounge.
“Just for your information,” he said following a brief chat about our respective tours, “Hashim Amla will be a great, great player for South Africa and will play 100 Test matches.”
“Really?” I asked, “that’s a hell of a statement. Can I quote you? It might be unfair on him.”
“Don’t quote me,” he said, “but write it yourself. You will look very clever because he will. I have seen him.” Amla had captained the team and made a profound impact on the players and management – without ever intending to so.
I bumped into Gray again during the period when Amla’s international career appeared to hang in a thread. His whimsical ‘snake by the tail’ back lift had convinced experts that he was technically ill-equipped to cope, let alone succeed, at international level. Gray laughed out loud. “Just watch…double your money if you fancy. You won’t regret it.”
And so it was. And so it has been.
Following his famous triple century at the Oval in 2008, Amla was nominated as one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year. He was frustrated, even irritated that his success on the cricket field was linked to his personality and/or his religion.
“There are three components to me,” he said. “There’s me, there’s the cricketer, and there’s my faith. They overlap but they are also separate, they do not necessarily affect or depend on each other.”
Amla’s achievements are immense and can be read about on numerous platforms. One of the best was the astonishing demolishing of Australia’s Test attack during his 196 in the series winning test in Perth in 2012. He was brutal to the point of humiliation.
Hashim chose not to have a high profile celebration of his Test century achievement. Cricket South Africa wanted to share his achievement with the fans at the Wanderers. But Amla chose to prepare for the match as normal. It is easy to sympathise with the great man, but equally easy to reach the conclusion that his passionate supporters deserved the right to celebrate his remarkable achievement with him. Hopefully, they will catch, and enjoy the recorded highlights.
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