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The silent conqueror of ODIs

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Hashim_Amla_South_Africa_cricketWhen you talk about modern day ODI batting greats, names of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Steven Smith, Joe Root and even Kane Williamson come to the fore instantly. All these individuals have indeed been extremely proficient over the years and have stamped their names in the annals of the game, perhaps forever.

However, one batsman, very quietly and almost indiscernibly, has made such significant accomplishments over the years in the ODI format that it is impossible to ignore him now. Hashim Amla, that man with the serene face and humble smile, has established himself as a true ODI champion without much fuss. And the way he is going, it seems likely that by the time he is done, Amla will be regarded as one of the greats of the format. For a batsman who is often seen as the perfect specimen of Test cricket, that indeed is a special achievement.

Becoming the fastest man to reach 25 ODI hundreds – in 151 innings – and having also reached the landmark of 7000 runs in 150 innings – the quickest in ODI history – Amla is well and truly way above the rest of the batting greats in the world at present.

The 34-year-old South African opener may not have much time on his hands to get near the records that Sachin Tendulkar has set. But the phenomenal numbers that he has already achieved should not just be appreciated but should also be taken as a lesson for those armchair critics who are often too eager to typecast cricketers. Because Hashim Amla has now broken the mold and set new benchmarks that would take some time to overcome.

Amla the ODI champion

Hashim Amla made his ODI debut a few weeks before his 25th birthday and in 152 innings since he has scored 7151 runs at an incredible average of 50.25 with 25 centuries and 33 fifties. Apart from being the fastest man to reach 25 ODI hundreds and 7000 ODI runs, Amla is also the fastest batsman to 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000 and 6000 ODI runs. For all the talk of Virat Kohli’s dominance in ODI cricket, Amla has consistently beaten him to each 1000-run landmark.

His home and away record, too, is fantastic. In 56 home ODIs, Amla has collected 2935 runs at an average of 55.37 and in 68 away matches, he has scored 2917 runs at an average of 48.61. On neutral venues, Amla has an impressive 1299 runs from 31 matches at 44.79. Another great feature of Amla’s ODI success has been his contribution in matches that South Africa wins. Amla has scored a whopping 5672 runs at an average of 64.45 with 23 centuries in the 97 ODI victories that he has been a part of for his country.

Sure, he, like all great batsmen, has had a lull period here and there, but Amla has still been extraordinarily consistent.

Also worth taking note is Amla’s ODI strike-rate. The stylish opener has accumulated his 7151 ODI runs from 8015 deliveries at an excellent strike-rate of 89.22. Amongst the current crop of ODI greats, only Virat Kohli –at 90.93 – and AB De Villiers – at 100.21 – are above him.

So isn’t it baffling that Amla’s name isn’t taken in the same breath as the other ODI champions of today? In fact, even when you talk of the South African ODI team alone, Hashim Amla’s name comes only after the likes of De Villiers and Quinton De Kock.

But perhaps this is the way Amla likes it. He enjoys being in the shadows of the other modern greats and going about his business, quietly albeit doggedly. Much like how a certain Rahul Dravid used to be for almost his entire ODI career.

The year 2017 has been truly productive for Amla. In 15 ODI matches, he has notched up 632 runs with two hundreds. Even in the IPL this year, Amla finished as the sixth highest run-scorer with 420 runs at an average of 60.00.

In fact, ever since 2010 – just two years after his ODI debut – Amla has been regularly notching up big numbers in the ODI format. It is just that people have either been too busy praising his Test efforts or gushing over the other ODI greats to seriously take note of Amla the ODI conqueror.

Conquering the ODI format with grace and style

Now that it is established that Hashim Amla is indeed one of the modern ODI greats, the question arises as to how such a seemingly docile batsman of calm demeanor has dominated this format so triumphantly. After all, ever since the evolution of the Jayasuriyas, the Sehwags and the Gilchrists, ODI cricket has transformed completely and the modern limited overs batsman is expected to be aggressive and belligerent through and through.

Amla, though, is a welcome change from this incessant show of brute force and spectacular hitting prowess. He is aesthetically pleasing and doesn’t strike the ball; he caresses it to the boundary lovingly. He comes from that old school brand of cricket – unruffled, uncomplicated and unhurried – and is yet so consistently successful. In fact, Amla’s success serves as the perfect lesson for the young cricketers of today that one need not always be ultra-aggressive to thrive in this format. It can also be done with patience, proper technique and class.

It is likely, though, that after this brief period of wonderment at Amla’s stupendous ODI achievements, all will soon be forgotten and people will proceed to marvel at Kohli and De Villiers again. But Amla will prefer it that way. And he will continue to shine and scale some inconceivable heights, away from all the limelight and the hullabaloo; all with his grace, nonchalance and serenity firmly in place.

 

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