In Formula One motorsport, the former world champion Kimi Raikonen was called the ‘Ice Man’ for his calm, cool and unemotional racing and responses during post-race interviews. Raikonen has always been a team man, never an ‘I’ man.
Hashim Amla is best known as ‘The Mighty Hash (#)’ due to his consistent and monumental performances for the Proteas, resulting in the man from Kwa-Zulu Natal becoming the best batsman in ODI cricket, and one of the best in Test cricket.
This piece was inspired by an incident during the third Momentum ODI between South Africa and Pakistan at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Sunday.
During the seventh over, bowled by the 7’1? left-arm paceman Mohammad Irfan, Amla showed just what a calm and cool character he is. A ball bowled by Irfan, was defended back to the bowler, only for Irfan to get down low, retrieve the ball and hurl it at the batsman’s stumps.
Generally, a batsman would duck, swerve or leap out of the way, but Amla calmly turned around and placed his bat inside his crease, as the ball hurtled passed him and crashed into the stumps. Amla then stroked the very next ball exquisitely through the covers for four, and then two balls later, as if to rub salt into the wounds, clipped the ball off his pads with some lovely wrist action, to the boundary for another four.
It is this type of character that reminds me of Raikonen and why Amla is cricket’s ‘Ice-Man’.
Amla is extremely humble in his replies to the media, acknowledging his teammates’ performances above his own. When Amla rose to the number two spot in the ICC Test rankings for batsmen, Amla remarked, “I am not even the second best bastman in my team!”
After South Africa crushed Australia by 309 runs in the third and final test in Perth to clinch their second consecutive Test Series win Down Under, Amla, who had posted a scorching 196 off 221 balls in the second innings, said ‘It helps when you play with such a great bunch of guys, and have a fantastic support staff.”
Not many sports people are humble and modest when speaking about their personal exploits, in fact, some sportsmen and women can be so full of themselves, that they seem arrogant, almost supercilious. Not Amla!
When Amla began his Proteas career, he was said to have technical flaws, averaging around 23 in his first 10 test matches. He came back with a bang! When he was selected for the ODI squad, many said that he could not score quick enough! Boy, were we wrong!
Amla has the highest One Day average for a batsman that has scored 3000+ runs, averaging around 58, almost five runs per innings more than Michael Bevan of Australia. In fact, Amla’s strike rate is over 90, and forms a vital opening partnership with Graeme Smith.
Amla has adapted his game to such an extent, that he remarked, “I don’t set any goals, I like to keep my options open and adapt to the situation as I am batting.”
Amla is the first South African of Indian decent to play for the Proteas, after his grandparents imigrated from Gujarat. His older brother, Ahmed Amla, made his first-class debut for the Dolphins two years before Hashim, but clearly the younger Amla is the better player.
Not only is Amla humble and modest, but also a devout Muslim, and such is the man, he refrains from wearing any logos on his outfit that has any reference to alcohol.
A rose by any other name, is still a rose. And Hashim Amla by any other name, is still Hashim Amla, but to South Africa – he is the Ice-Man!