Hashim’s nutcracker a sweet come­back

The Citizen (KZN) - - SPORT -

Ahmed­abad isn’t re­ally a des­ti­na­tion your typ­i­cal South African trav­eller will be too fond of. First of all, the sixth largest city in In­dia is lo­cated in Gu­jarat, a dry state. As a for­eigner you can ap­ply for a liquor li­cence which al­lows you a cer­tain quota dur­ing your stay, but the grant is nowhere near suf­fi­cient for the thirsty trav­eller. And you have to con­sume it be­hind closed doors.

Even worse, you can hardly find meat on any menu as the of­fer­ings are mostly veg­e­tar­ian. Imag­ine a bunch of Saf­fers around a braai fire de­prived of dop AND tjop.

But de­spite th­ese chal­lenges, South African cricket sides have a few fond mem­o­ries of the city’s cricket head­quar­ters, the Sar­dar Pa­tel Gu­jarat Sta­dium. Shaun Pol­lock pro­duced an uber miserly bowl­ing dis­play there to choke Sri Lanka in a must-win Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy match in 2006, two years later AB de Vil­liers launched the cocky Harb­ha­jan Singh onto the roof of the grand­stand on his way to a swash­buck­ling un­beaten 217 to set up an in­nings vic­tory in the sec­ond Test and in 2010 con­tin­ued his love-af­fair with the ground by past­ing the In­dian at­tack again dur­ing a 58-ball one-day ton.

But my favourite mem­ory of the 54 000-seater venue didn’t hap­pen on the ac­tual play­ing sur­face. Hashim Amla had just com­pleted a net ses­sion on the eve of a Test and was speak­ing to a cou­ple of tour­ing re­porters, who opened their ques­tion­ing with some­thing along the lines of “so how was train­ing to­day”?

“It went well,” he said, “be­sides from the fact that I got hit in the nuts”... and con­tin­ued de­scrib­ing the net ses­sion on his merry way with­out flinch­ing.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing up the in­ter­view, vet­eran cricket scribe Neil Man­thorp turned to me and asked in a red-faced gig­gle: “Was it just me, or did he drop a nut bomb on us?”

Still in dis­be­lief, tran­scrib­ing the in­ter­view from my dic­ta­phone to my lap­top con­firmed our hear­ing was in­deed in good health.

For­ward al­most a decade and Amla is set to be­come only the eighth South African to play a hun­dred Tests when the third match against Sri Lanka starts at the Wan­der­ers to­mor­row. Trib­utes are ex­pected to pour in from all over the crick­et­ing fra­ter­nity for one of Mzansi’s great­est bats­man ever. Su­perS­port will no doubt show a spe­cial doc­u­men­tary dur­ing lunchtime with footage of his il­lus­tri­ous Test ca­reer, with the high­lights un­doubt­edly his his­toric triple hun­dred against Eng­land at The Oval in 2012 and be­ing ap­pointed South Africa’s first per­ma­nent non-white Test cap­tain two years later.

This may seem silly, but what will live on in my mind long af­ter he has played his fi­nal in­nings will not be a wristy flick through the leg side for four or rais­ing his bat for yet an­other cen­tury.

No, it will rather be his de­scrip­tion of the ill-fated de­liv­ery that snuck through his de­fences in the Ahmed­abad nets. Why? Be­cause it per­son­i­fies who he is: Unas­sum­ing, hon­est and di­rect.

With Hash, what you see is what you get and that hap­pens to be one of the most de­cent hu­man be­ings you will meet. One who lauds a team-mate’s tal­ents af­ter scor­ing a triple hun­dred him­self and one who grace­fully re­moves the cap­tain’s arm­band when he feels it is in the best in­ter­est for his coun­try.

I sin­cerely hope the matches col­umn isn’t the only one dis­play­ing three fig­ures be­hind his name on the Bull­ring’s score­board this week, be­cause no­body de­serves a spe­cial knock for a spe­cial oc­ca­sion more than our beloved Hash.

But with the gen­er­ous bounce on of­fer, just be mind­ful of an­other nutcracker, old chap.

Jaco van der Merwe

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