“For souls nobly born, valour doesn’t await the passing of years,” said French dramatist Pierre Corneille in his play Le Cid.
He could well be describing Durban born cricketer Hasim Mahomed Amla who at the tender age of 23 has accomplished more on and off cricket grounds than most of his peers, but despite the fame and responsibility that this has brought, little has change in his personality.
Amla says he is still the same person because his life has mostly been shaped by values and guiding principles rooted in his up bringing as a devout Muslim.
“My values come from my faith, I try to practice my faith the best I can, keeping to the rules and teachings which are very simple and practical and which are beneficial to all who follow it,” he said.
“To be honest I was initially disheartened to hear the comment and I was a bit shocked and confused that someone would put me into a stereotype like that.
“But he phoned me to apologise and sounded really sincere about it and so there are no hard feelings.
“It is the first time on or off the field that I have experienced something like this and I hope it will be the last. I suppose I could have reacted differently but I think my faith has had a huge part to play in my staying calm through it all.
“My parents always encouraged me to do the right thing and I haven’t always managed it but as a Muslim I have been encouraged to be forgiving and show mercy and compassion and hopefully if I show mercy and compassion, others will do the same for me.”
Amla was born in March 1983 and grew in Tongaat, north of Durban. Very early, it became evident that he was a gifted cricketer as he made it to local cricket teams at the tender age of 13.
He proved his mettle at the Durban High School, where he went through the various school ranks and then rose to national team levels, where he captained South Africa at the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand in 2002. He also excelled in the A-team and finally got the call to join the Proteas at the age of 21.
The right-handed batsman made his test debut with the Proteas at the 2004 tour of India. Even though he had a disappointing performance and was letter dropped from the squad, Amla continued to work hard at club level with the Nashua Dolphins in Durban, and was rewarded for his hard work, discipline and leadership qualities with fantastic results that were followed by club captaincy.
But in all this, Amla remains the self-effacing person that he is, leaving it to other people to describe him. “To be honest, it is hard to describe myself, I would say that I am just an easy going person,” he says.
“He is a very balanced and matured person, very humble in his dealings and very religious,” says Cassim Docrat, CEO of Kwa Zulu Natal Cricket Union.
Docrat said it is for these qualities that he was named team captain. “He is a good leader and prefers to be a participant rather than a spectator, ever since he was a young lad, he has constantly shown these leadership qualities,” says Docrat.
Docrat added that what guides Amla, are values such as honesty, integrity and transparency, and at the end of the day; these are what matters most to him, than all the fame and everything else.
Amla says he does not care very much for the fame that has come with playing international cricket, even though it has brought popularity. To him, doing everything to the best of his abilities it what counts most.
Widely respect for his discipline and composure on and off the field, Amla said he also find his motivation in the fact that when he is at the crease, it is with the knowledge that he is there for 45 million South Africans, and that alone motivates him to be the best and play to the best of his ability.
Another facet of his personality was seen recently when he acknowledged Australian commentator Dean Jones’s apology for calling him a “terrorist”. “One guiding principle I live by,” says Amla “is to live harmoniously with everybody even those who hurt you”.
“It was easy to forgive him once I spoke to him and realised he was sincere in his apology,” says Amla
Of being a role model and an inspiration to younger people, Amla says that if it can influence them to the right choices, then its fine, but above all “they should let the Almighty always guide them,” he says.
He said the only advice he can give them is to “keep good company, because one way or the other, we are influenced by our peers,” and also to stay out of trouble because even when we think no one is watching, the Almighty always is. – Heartlines Features
By Bate Felix and Karien Jonckheere.