Hashim Amla gets angry about as often as there is a supermoon, but when he addressed the media in defense of his captain Faf du Plessis on Friday, his answers teetered on the tetchy. In response to questions about du Plessis’ alleged ball-tampering, Amla had said the squad believed the captain had done “absolutely nothing wrong”, that they all occasionally took field with mouthfuls of something, and asked whether he should brush his teeth after every break in play.
Now, the third Test in Adelaide, a dead-rubber that was supposed to hold nothing more than novelty-value as South Africa’s first day-nighter, is now the centre of several controversies. Chief among them is whether du Plessis’ ball-tampering hearing will take place before the game and whether that could put his place in doubt.
But anyone hoping that Amla’s irritation over the episode would spill over into an ego-trip on the misfortunes that have befallen the opposition, was left disappointed.
As soon as the question of Australia came up, Amla switched from aggrieved to gracious and confirmed he took no pleasure from the opposition’s pain. “I’ve got a lot of joy enjoying my team-mates and the position we are in but I take no gratification from the difficulties of others,” Amla said. “We are really happy and glad that we are 2-0 up in the series. We’ve got lots to achieve and we want to keep enjoying each other’s company and keep supporting each other, which is the most important thing in any team environment and hopefully we can continue this until the end of the next Test match.”
Amla’s empathy stems from recent experience – as recent as last summer, when he was at the helm and South Africa were humbled. “When you’ve gone through difficult times, you appreciate the good times,” Amla said. “You remember the difficult times because it could fall on you at some other stage.”
A year, or even six months ago, few would have predicted this. South Africa’s golden run on the road had reached its cul de sac and, like any other team, it was expected they would find it tough to compete away from home, especially without some of their best players. That they defied all that has left Amla proud. “Winning in Australia is a big moment for any team. I have been fortunate to have it three times now and this time is just as good as any of the other two,” he said. “We’ve come here with a young squad and these guys have really made a name for themselves in world cricket and in Australia.”
If du Plessis is found guilty and suspended for the match, it may fall on Amla to put aside his reluctance to lead and take the reins for the final hurrah. If du Plessis is cleared or the hearing is delayed, doubtless, he will be in the public firing line and it will fall on his players to protect him as Amla did.
The best way for South Africa to do that will be on the field, not in front of a microphone, and Amla is sure they have arsenal for an Adelaide coup. Their attack, which has already taken ten for under-100 twice in the series so far, is anxious to get its hands on the pink ball and make it talk as much as the angry Amla did.
“I don’t think you would like to be in the nets facing our bowlers at the moment. It has been a really tough ordeal,” Amla said. “With the pink ball, if it does move around in the evening, it will be a lot harder. We are very fortunate to have a very strong bowling attack who have bowled exceptionally well to put us in the position we are in. All the guys are in a great space and that’s all we can ask for.
“We’ve come here on a mission. Part of the mission has been accomplished which is wonderful but three-nil sounds better than two-nil or 2-1.”