Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
South Africa batsman Hashim Amla has announced that he will focus on the ODI series before worrying about his first Test series as captain during the Proteas’ upcoming tour of Sri Lanka.
Amla also hopes that his side will be able to handle the spin-friendly conditions in Sri Lanka, especially after many of them played in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
“Although I have had a few weeks to give the captaincy a little bit more thought, but nothing much has changed,” Amla said. “I think a lot will change once the series starts, but up until then, my focus mentally is on the one-day series. Fortunately, I was in the UK playing county cricket in preparation for this tour, but in my mind I have been thinking about the ODIs and hopefully we can make amends. The captaincy will come at a later stage.
“Two matches, I am quite happy about it. Sri Lanka is a tough place to tour. From a rankings perspective, we have dropped to No. 2, but that is not at the forefront of our objectives. We would love to be there [No. 1] as soon as possible but with the kind of new make-up team that we have, it’s important to find a winning formula first and things will fall into place later.”
Even though South Africa were thrashed 4-1 during their last ODI series against Sri Lanka in 2013, head coach Russell Domingo is hoping that his team can gain some confidence from the fact that the Proteas beat Sri Lanka 2-1 in the Twenty20 series.
“I know it’s a different format but the way we finished the last two of the T20s. We beat them 2-1,” Domingo said. “It was our first white-ball series win in Sri Lanka, so we can take the confidence from it that we have won a series in the shorter version in Sri Lanka.
“I know we lost 4-1 (in the ODIs) last year, but I can remember it as a strange tour. Hashim played one game, then he got sick, then he started playing the next game and broke a finger. So there were lot of disruptions, lot of injuries, and lot of inexperience. There was no Dale Steyn, no Jacques Kallis. Hashim missed a few games. And having that sort of quality will be a massive benefit. Last year was a learning experience for the young players and now we are fortunate to have some of the senior players back. Hopefully that will make a big impact.”
Domingo also noted that South Africa will be tested during this series since the “heat is stifling in Sri Lanka”.
“The heat is stifling in Sri Lanka and your pace attack can only bowl short spells. It’s anything but easy to bat in Sri Lanka. Very testing conditions, not just the heat, but the nature of the wickets – they are abrasive and it spins,” Domingo said. “We have seen at night times sometimes, it does offer a little bit of movement. So losing early wickets is a possibility that exposes your middle order to their spin strength, which then puts your team under pressure. So it’s not easy to bat in Sri Lanka.”
However, Amla and AB de Villiers are the only two batsmen in the team to have played a Test match in Sri Lanka, which came eight years ago.
Amla is also aware of the challenges posed by Sri Lanka’s bowling attack, especially spinner Rangana Herath.
“We have always viewed Herath as a very good bowler, especially in Sri Lankan conditions,” Amla said. “Malinga is not playing Tests anymore, so they have relied on Herath as their main wicket-taker. Let’s not be forgetting or disrespecting to the other bowlers who have done really well for them, but Herath is a factor. If the wickets do turn, we will deal with it. We are fortunate that most of our batters have played in the subcontinent – we have beaten India – and Dubai and in Sri Lanka. Fortunately we have lot of experience and we will draw on that.”