Amla brings a touch of innocence to troubled game



Harare- HASHIM Amla’s appointment as substantive captain of the Proteas is a milestone in South African cricket – the team embracing its first skipper of colour and, crucially, a man who doesn’t support what their biggest sponsor, Castle Lager, represent.

Amla’s appointment as skipper of the Proteas represents a return to the age of innocence for a game whose soul is currently being battered by damaging allegations of match-fixing, centred on some members of the New Zealand team, but which could engulf the entire global cricket family.

The 31-year-old batsman, one of the game’s finest players who is widely respected across the entire global cricket family, took over from long-serving skipper Graeme Smith as the Proteas took another huge step into the future.

The retirement of star all-rounder, Jacques Kallis, from Test cricket marked the beginning of the end of the old order in which the Proteas turned themselves into the top-ranked test team in the world and won tours in England and Australia.

Now Amla has to lead the team into a future in which the resurgent Australians, re-energised by their success over England in the Ashes and how they competed favourably in South Africa, are once again ready to charge to the top of the world.

Amla, who is regarded as a beacon of integrity in cricket, takes over as leader of one of the biggest franchises of the game at a time when the integrity of the international game has come under question once again.

Lou Vincent, a former Black Caps batsman, has already confessed to International Cricket Council anti-graft investigators that he was part of a web of cricketers who received payments from bookmakers in order to manipulate matches.

Vincent claims, in documents that have been seen by the British media, that he was also offered sex and cash in order to fix matches by an Indian bookmaker identified only as VG.

The ICC investigators are now looking at the Auckland Aces’ participation in the Twenty20 Champions League in South Africa in 2012, in which Vincent was a part of the New Zealand team, as part of their global investigations into this match-fixing scam.

Vincent accuses six other players, including Black Caps all-rounder Chris Cairns, of being part of that web of corruption in which 12 games around the world, played between 2008 and 2012, could have been manipulated and are now part of the ICC probe.

Cairns, who has already met with the ICC investigators in London, denies the charges and says Vincent must carry his cross rather than tarnish the images of his former teammates in his game of deceit.

Vincent  claims that on one occasion the Indian bookmaker, VG, came into his hotel room with a woman, whom he described as a present to the Black Caps batsman, and a cash payment of US$15 000 for a game to be fixed.

The tactics, which were used by the cricketers to show that a fix was on, included the changing of the colour of a bat handle and they would then score between 10 to 15 runs, in 22 balls, before ensuring that they were dismissed.

South Africa have had its painful past with Indian bookmakers and only a dozen years have passed since Hansie Cronje, who led the Proteas in a record 53 Tests and 138 ODIs, died having fallen from grace, two years earlier, when he admitted that he took bribes from Indian bookmakers to provide information and fix matches.

Amla represents the innocence that world cricket badly wants, during its hour of turmoil as the events in New Zealand continue to unfold, and is the fifth substantive coach of the Proteas, after their return to the international fold, and follows in the footsteps of Kepler Wessels, Shaun Pollock, Graeme Smith and Cronje.

He is the first cricketer of colour to lead the Proteas, on a substantial basis, although Ashwell Prince led the team, on a temporary basis, during their tour of Sri Lanka in August 2006 after Smith was ruled out because of injury.

“It is an honour and a privilege to be given this responsibility,” Amla said in a statement.

“I would like to pay tribute to the leadership Graeme Smith has provided throughout my international career.

“This is an exciting challenge but one that I take on with positivity with our Test team being in an exceptionally good space at the moment with the support of a strong core of senior players.

“I have concentrated on taking my batting to the highest possible level, and now I feel I am in a position to make a contribution to South African cricket in a leadership role.”

Cricket South Africa chief executive Haroon Lorgat said Amla deserves his promotion to be the leader of the Proteas.

“Hashim is universally respected, both in South Africa and around the cricketing world, not only for his quality as a player, which has seen him ranked among the best batsmen in the world in both test and ODI cricket, but also for his personal qualities,” Lorgat said.

“He has shown his steel in playing in the key number three batting position, one which he took over from Jacques Kallis with great success.

“The manner in which he has adapted his game to suit the different forms of cricket speaks volumes for his skills to react to changing circumstances."

Crucially, Amla is the player who never wears a shirt with the logo of the Proteas’ biggest sponsors, Castle Lager, because his religious beliefs don’t allow him to promote a brand associated with alcohol.

South African Breweries, who are the franchise holders of Castle Lager, signed a new multi-million rand four-year sponsorship deal with Cricket South Africa three years ago giving Castle Lager the sponsorship rights to both the Proteas’ Test and ODI teams.

 Castle Lager, who have been in the Proteas corner since the team returned to international cricket, said they would support Amla and were not concerned that he won’t wear a shirt with their logo.

“We welcome and support the decision by Cricket SA and the coaching team and congratulate Hashim Amla on his well-deserved appointment,” Alastair Hewitt, the SAB Sponsorship and Castle Lager General Manager, said in a statement.

“We would like to assure him of our continued support and commitment, as we have done for previous Proteas captains.”

June 2014
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