5 Things South Africa Will Change Under New Captain Hashim Amla
Graeme Smith’s retirement as captain has brought with it much excitement and a little bit of panic.
After leading the team for so long, Smith’s departure will undoubtedly leave a gaping hole. He shouldered the burden of much pressure for many years, but the time has come to move on.
Not much will change under Hashim Amla’s leadership, and what will change will be minimal.
Being pragmatic is in South Africa’s DNA, and since Amla has been part of the team for so long, there won’t be much different. Still, there are a few subtle changes one can expect.
Here are five.
1. There Will Be a More Holistic Leadership Approach
When Smith was in charge of South Africa, it was his team.
There is nothing wrong with that. Smith is a great leader and a colossal presence. He led from the front during his time in charge of South Africa.
However, that will most likely change now.
While Amla will be in charge, he can rely on deputy AB de Villiers and right-hand man Faf du Plessis for important decisions. De Villiers and Amla have played cricket together for over a decade, while Du Plessis and De Villiers have known each other since their school days.
What’s that old saying about two heads being better than one?
2. They Will Panic Less
Can you imagine somebody like Dale Steyn being calm and relaxed?
Known for being a Jack-in-the-Box, Steyn is always on the go. However, as he admitted on Twitter in 2011, he simply turns to Amla if he ever needs to find inspiration.
This kind of “zen” from Amla will filter through to the rest of the side and bring a new calm and balance to the team. They have mostly held their nerve in Tests in the past, but there have been a few instances when things got just a little bit tight.
During the third Test at Lord’s against England in 2012, for example.
These pressures often result in no-balls and silly mistakes. Amla’s influence will help bring new calm to the team.
3. Do as I Do, Not as I Say
Amla is often perceived to be “soft.”
Softly spoken and gentle in his approach when trouble is abound, Amla is always a picture of zen. He will not try to “pull rank” when the going gets tough. His influence comes through how he performs on the field with the bat.
However, there is some doubt over how captaincy will impact his batting. After all, the man himself admitted he's spent much of the last few years concentrating on that part of his game.
Per the Hindustan Times:
Throughout the years I have concentrated mainly on my batting, trying to become the best batsman possible and hopefully I can still get there. But now I do feel it is time to act, to contribute in a team environment.
4. They Might Opt for 2 Spinners
This might not be directly linked to Amla’s influence—more to the “horses for courses” thinking which has slowly filtered through to the team in recent years.
Sri Lanka’s tracks are known for favouring spinners. The Test squad set to tour Sri Lanka has two spinners listed in Dane Piedt and Imran Tahir.
Tahir has steadily improved since his 0-260 in Adelaide in 2012, and he is now preferred over Robin Peterson.
Piedt, meanwhile, was the leading wicket-taker in the domestic four-day competition. He is a wily old fox who can bowl many variations, including the doosra.
It might not be a strategy the Proteas opt for all the time, but it will be an interesting one in Sri Lanka.
5. South Africa Will Keep Getting Better
Transitional periods are all the rage these days, and South Africa have landed themselves smack bang in the middle of a massive one.
With Smith and Jacques Kallis gone in quick succession, not only are there gaping holes to plug, there is also a new strategy to think about.
Kallis provided an extra bowling luxury very few other teams have. With that rug ripped out from underneath them, the bowlers will have to work harder. A spinner will have to get through overs without conceding too many runs and the quicks will have to box clever.
South Africa will also have a new opener alongside Alviro Petersen, most likely Dean Elgar and the possibility of a new batsman lower down the order.
A lot of changes have all come at once, and it takes a strong team to rebuild like that, but South Africa have the right players to guide them through the rocky period.
Having slipped from the No. 1 Test ranking recently, getting back to the top might take some time. However, with plenty of young talent in the wings, it shouldn't take too long.