The week passing by would certainly leave the South African cricket fan with a hollow feeling. First Dale Steyn and now Hashim Amla — the news of the duo calling time on their Test careers could not have at a worse time for the Proteas when they are still trying to come to terms with an utterly forgettable World Cup campaign.
The duo may have been like chalk and cheese in terms of the personalities they brought about on the cricket field — but both were larger-than-life characters for a country who are lapsing into mediocrity again after a very fruitful run not so long ago. Only little more than a year back, the versatile AB de Villiers also signed off from international cricket — and it will take South Africa long to recover from such mammoth losses.
The fact, however, is that while AB’s departure was greeted with shock and a certain amount of disbelief, the exit of Steyn and Amla had a certain degree of writing on the wall quality about it. Talking about Amla first, the affable character had this rare quality of owning up for any of the team’s or personal frailties if the situation demanded — and the 36-year-old’s retirement is only a vindication of that.
The way he stepped aside from Test captaincy in the middle of a Test series — which he handled in 14 Test matches between 2014 and 2015-16 ostensibly to focus on his batting — is a case in point. A self-effacing character, he never really looked comfortable in the leadership role and instead wanted to focus on piling up the runs in his unobtrusive fashion.
The records would speak for themselves, but the one aspect of his craft which often gets overlooked is the equal degree of felicity which he showed in both the longer and 50-over formats. If he was the only South African batsman to score a triple century in Tests, Amla was also the quickest to reach the landmarks of 2000 to 7000 ODI runs — no mean feat this. However, the famous consistency seemed to have been deserting him for sometime now — while a poor outing in the World Cup certainly played its part in Amla taking the call once again.
The viability of having Steyn in the longer format of the game had been diminishing for the last couple of years due to the injuries — and the way he broke down during the World Cup actually jeopardised the team management’s plans. However, as South Africa begin rebuilding after a demoralising World Cup campaign, the prospect of having Steyn around in white ball cricket for some more time can be a reassuring one for Faf du Plessis.
Thank you, Amla and Steyn for everything.