London — What does it tell someone who once batted for more than 13 hours against one of the best attacks in the game that he cannot stay at the crease for not quite 35 balls in any of six innings facing some of the most ordinary bowling he would have seen in his almost 19 years as a senior player?
That he is in a slump? That he is past it? That we cannot compare the seriousness of batting in a Test with the silliness of taking guard in a slew of T20s?
Whatever: welcome to Hashim Amla’s current reality.
Those 13 hours comprise the innings of his life — the undefeated 311 he made at The Oval in July 2012 is still the only triple century scored for SA.
This is a far cry from the 72 runs Amla has scraped together for the Barbados Tridents in the 2018 Caribbean Premier League (CPL). If there is anything we can glean from all that, it is that playing in the CPL is not helping Amla emerge from the doldrums of not having scored a century in his last 34 innings.
His best effort for the Tridents by Tuesday was the 34-ball 35 he made against the St Lucia Stars in Bridgetown on September 2. Amla’s only other forays into double figures have been in innings of 14 and 15.
In the process he has been dismissed by people called Roshon Primus and Qais Ahmad. Whoever they are‚ they are not a patch on James Anderson‚ Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann‚ the heart of England’s attack at The Oval six years ago.
In July Amla became the third South African to surpass the 9,000-run mark in Test cricket during the second Test against Sri Lanka. It took him 119 matches and 204 innings to achieve the feat. Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith are the others to reach the milestone.
Players change. Amla’s greatness has not been in question for a long time‚ and it is not now. But‚ perhaps because of the heights he has reached‚ it is starkly obvious that he is not the player he used to be.
Just as true is that SA need him‚ even as a diminishing presence. Think of their chances at the 2019 World Cup with Amla in the side. Then think how the team would fare without him. The difference between those two thoughts tells us plenty.