TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg
CROOKED backlift. Too unorthodox. Too other. He’ll never survive.
But Hashim Amla has survived – since 1999 in the first-class arena and, as a test player, since 2004.
It’s too easy to drown the significance of what he has achieved in the sea of numbers cricket deems important.
But Amla is nothing if not real.
So let’s keep the numbers on a real scale.
Amla has spent 41 081 minutes at the crease in first-class matches.
That’s the equivalent of almost 685 hours, or more than 28-and-a-half 24-hour days.
In tests he has batted for just about 361 hours – a mite more than 15 days and nights.
The kid with the backlift aimed towards gully, who made his first-class debut at 16, who scored South Africa’s only test triple century at the Oval in 2012, who completed a double century and resigned the test captaincy all in one match at Newlands last year, is on the verge of a moment that will doubtless be more important to millions around the world than it will seem to him.
On Thursday, when Amla crosses the boundary at the Wanderers in the third match of the series against Sri Lanka, he will earn his 100th test cap.
Only 65 of the 2 852 men who have played test cricket can lay claim to that achievement.
No. 66 will have little in common with them.
Imagine Sachin Tendulkar, he of the 200 caps, needing the significance of reaching 100 tests explained to him?
Or Shane Warne, who played 145 tests, declining to attend a press conference to talk about his impending century of matches?
Or Kumar Sangakkara, with his 134 appearances, not stringing a mellifluous sentence or 12 together to describe what it all means to him?
But it’s not at all difficult to imagine Amla fitting the description on all three counts above.
That theory gained currency at the Wanderers on Tuesday, when a gaggle of reporters gathered hoping, expecting even, Amla to darken the doorway at the appointed hour of 1.30pm …
Somewhere past 2pm Stephen Cook arrived to talk to the press.
Amla? For three days now South Africa’s team management have tried to bring him to within earshot of reporters before Thursday, even enlisting the help of his agent, but to no avail.
And, in the same way there’s no telling a figure like Amla what to do, there can be no arguing with him on this.
Why do we go over the top to celebrate 100 tests and not treat 99 or 101 – or even one – anywhere nearly as significant?
Why must we make ourselves victims of marketing?
Reaching 100 tests won’t add to Amla’s already established greatness, and even if he makes a pair at he Wanderers that greatness will not be tarnished.
So, big ups, Hash, for staying away from all this milestone nonsense. And keep keeping it real.