Where will we find our truth once he retires?
TELFORD VICE in Cape Town
SOUTH Africa’s cricketers, always among the most advantaged of their compatriots, have been even more privileged for more than 13 years. And not only because they are paid well to play a game and bask in the adulation of millions around the world.
In an age when reality often isn’t what it says it is and it’s dangerously easy to believe that what we see is what will get us, some day, all South Africa’s players have needed to do to see truth is to look across the dressingroom.
Looking back at them they have seen a man who is as aware of his limitations as he is of his talents, who shows no signs of having been sullied by ego, who seems to radiate goodness and decency.
His name is Hashim Amla.
Also in this there is danger. Here in the press, some of us need to stop ourselves from writing Amla up as some kind of higher form of life. We need to remember that he is, and to portray him as, human. Anything else is to drink the poison of those who would seek to divide us, and who these days wear coats that cover different colours of skin.
To understand what Amla and every other player has done, and how they have been given the opportunities to do it, we need to understand the past they have come from.
That was neatly captured last week by Andre Odendaal, who with Krish Reddy and Christopher Merrit, is halfway through writing a four-volume history of the game in this country.
“This second volume attempts to paint an entirely new picture of South African cricket in the first five decades of South Africa’s existence as a country, from the 1910s to the 1950s,” Odendaal said in a release.
“It tells the story of the breaking up of South African cricket into seven different national bodies on ethno-religious lines who all had their own leagues, provincial competitions and national teams.
“And it completely inverts the one-dimensional narratives of previous general histories of cricket during a crucial and complex period of the new country’s development to show that cricket has an infinitely richer past than has been recorded to date.
“Without knowing how apartheid in cricket unfolded one cannot even begin to understand the journey the country has travelled since the 1950s. Today we take cricket unity for granted, but it was struggled for and painstakingly constructed.”
We can, thus, never take Amla for granted. If he had arrived when South Africa was another country most of us would never have seen that backlift, that unshockable face, that lingering impression of George Barnard Shaw creaking about the outfield, and those 8 982 runs in tests and another 7 535 in one-day internationals.
And the next generation would never have been given Amla’s exemplary example.
“Hashim is an integral member of the team, apart from [for] the sheer weight of runs he has accumulated but the mentorship of the younger players in the team,” said one of them, Temba Bavuma.
“He is always there acting as a calming influence and to provide the necessary wisdom and assurance to us younger guys.
“For me he is a living example of excellence and shows how we should play the game, with humility and graciousness.”
Cyril Ramaphosa no doubt agrees: last week Amla was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga for what he has done far beyond the boundary for South Africa, South Africans and humanity generally.
But Amla is 35. Once he goes what will South Africa’s players see when they look across the dressingroom in search of reality?
Someone needs to keep telling them the truth.