If you look up greatness in a dictionary, you will read Michael Jordan!
Yes, Jordan the legend had surpassed everything which a mortal player could even dream of, he was zooming ahead on the same lane others were content in crawling, for them only moving on was enough.
This audacity to leap up from a crawl, take guard again and then sprint on is greatness and Jordan was synonymous to them all.
The world had seen him and the world waited for another freak, and then witnessed Hashim Amla on July 21 and 22 in 2012.
On a scale of Viv Richards’s dominance to Geoffrey Boycott’s doggedness, Amla acquired the grey spot, all the while in his bubble, with his flowing mane sticking out of the helmet and his willow being wielded with surgical precision.
Greatness is a word tossed about too loosely these days. Jordan was great for a reason and under the blazing sun in London, Hashim Amla was great, his innings was great, his composure was great, his movements were great, the effortless grace was great!
South Africa, led by Graeme Smith, locked horns with the then number one side in the world, hosts England at the Oval.
Bear in mind, the English attack had humiliated India the previous year and under Andrew Strauss, the seam bowlers were baying for some more blood.
There is a certain edge to England-South Africa encounters, it might appear feeble when compared to the Ashes, but ask the players, for them the intensity is still the same, for bereft of any hype, they know that any slip-up and their careers could be on the line.
Andrew Strauss won the toss and England batted first. The Oval surface is a belter to bat on, it starts to deteriorate as the days go on, hence the decision made sense.
Alastair Cook notched up his century and although the rest of the batting faltered around him, the hosts managed to get to a respectable 385 in their first innings.
With the kind of attack they boasted of, this total looked secure. Well, it would have been secure, had Hashim Amla not decided to stamp his authority all over London and all across the cricketing world.
James Anderson took the new ball and charged in amidst the raucous crowd and bowled that perfect cherry to Alviro Petersen, it pitched and seamed, Peterson was drawn forward, almost sucked into a sense of false security!
The ball thudded into his back pad and he was stone dead in front of the stumps. England erupted, the crowds lost their voice and almost lost in the cauldron Hashim Amla waded in.
No cameras panned towards his expression when he walked out, he never needed one, but his steely resolve could be gauged through the helmet. He took guard and never got out, never in the entire match!
The famed bowling attack was flattened, rubbed into the turf, the red ball lost its shape, colour, shine and every characteristic. Amla lost nothing, he only grew in stature his hunger grew, all the while his reputation galloped forward.
529 balls later, almost 2 days later and after hitting 35 boundaries, Amla had to be coerced into leaving the batting crease by his captain Graeme Smith.
He is a genial man, is Hashim, he sauntered off the ground, looking fresh as a daisy, shaking hands with his opponents, with that ‘great’ smile. The cameras now never left him, he never bothered. His bat had pasted England, his expression was rubbing it all in!