DURBAN – Hashim Amla’s decision to go back to Durban has cast a shadow of perspective on the Proteas camp, even as World Cup fever reaches new temperatures.
Amla’s father is critically ill and the veteran right-hander has spent the past fortnight at his side. The circumstances go beyond the game, and it is not unreasonable to speculate that Amla may not play cricket for the rest of the summer.
Quite where that places his World Cup chances, no one quite knows. What is in no doubt, however, is that family comes first.
The urgency with which Amla left the camp also illuminates just how challenging it might have been for him to fully concentrate on cricket for much of this season.
By all accounts, it is a very sensitive time.
The team is saddened by the departure of the rock upon which one-day batting foundations for the past decade and more have been built.
Reeza Hendricks returns to the squad, with management explaining that they had always planned on rotating Amla and the Highveld Lions opener.
Even if it was part of a plan, no one would have seen this coming.
This latest development also means that the final decision for the remaining batting slot in the World Cup squad will be reached using other criteria.
The selectors might have fancied a simple shootout over the next two ODI matches, but their sentiments will guide them now.
Skipper Faf du Plessis did explain what Amla brought to the table, with his experience, extensive run-scoring and wealth of knowledge a great source of comfort to those around him.
It was not an easy decision to make as it was, and it has now got a lot more complicated.
Or maybe, it actually isn’t that complicated at all. They already knew that Dale Steyn was in, hence his extended inactivity.
They also knew that JP Duminy was in, as long as he proved his fitness by getting back on the park timeously.
It may also be true that the selection panel just wanted to see Amla find his rhythm after a tough few months.
These questions will answer themselves soon enough. For now though, the team will wrap up a series that they have thoroughly dominated, and Amla will go back to the most important people in his life.
It is a healthy dose of perspective as World Cup discussions dominate more and more conversations.
It is still just a game, and there are still immeasurably bigger priorities to concern ourselves with.
The fourth one-day international between South Africa and Sri Lanka starts in Port Elizabeth at 1pm today. Coverage is on SABC 3 and SuperSport 2.
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