Race, Identity and the Making of Hashim Amla

Race, Identity and the Making of Hashim Amla

Africa Is A Country

Niren Tolsi

Hashim Amla has arrived. His back-lift to gully now appears the sort of lazy flourish that bored twelve-year-olds develop because they are staggeringly superior to their opposition, rather than the defect that presumed he wouldn’t cut it at international level early on in his career. That twirl of a back-lift is now brought down to defend, flick, drive and reduce Test bowlers into looking like schoolboys. He is silky and elegant in a manner that compelled Richie Benaud, the former Australian captain–and one of the most knowledgeable, and least myopic, of that country’s commentators–-to describe him as “an artist in a team of artisans” during a solid first tour Down Under in 2008.

At the time of writing (after the Wanderers Test match against Pakistan in early February) he was the International Cricket Council’s world number one ranked Test batsman. En-route to overtaking Australian captain Michael Clarke to assume that apex he had struck an unbeaten 311 against England at The Oval–becoming the first South African to score a triple-ton and the 22nd person in the history of Test cricket to do so.

His batting is eye-catching. As is the shaggy square beard that marks him out as a devout Muslim in a team that has traditionally traded on what Jesus would do, Castle Lager, jock-of-the-establishment-school-tie posturing and a gritty approach to the game that melded the conservative, dour and tragic elements that reside inside the Afrikaner and the Rooi-neck. If Jacques Kallis, the darling of the South African (white) cricketing media corps, represents the establishment with his hair implants, demeanor as wooden as his “big bat” and tweets calling for the return of the death penalty, then Amla, all leg-side flicks as luxurious as his beard, imperious punches off the back-foot and mere physical manifestation represents its anathema–almost. In the chaotic, overlapping and contradictory world of South African identity politics even that would be too reductionist. Too simple…

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