IT SEEMS absurd that South Africa's best batsman right now is not a shoo-in for a place in the ICC World Twenty20 in West Indies in May and June, yet Hashim Amla would be the last to complain.
The humble top-order Proteas and KZN Dolphins batsman has been fighting stereotypes ever since he made his Test debut against India in November 2004 - having to wait almost four more years for his one-day international debut.
As recently as the tour to India that ended on February 27, Amla was still silencing doubters who had labelled him a Test specialist. After setting records in the two-match Test series, where he was named man of the series with his batting average a mammoth 490, including 253 in the first Test in Bangalore, Amla was due to be sent home for the ODIs.
But an injury to captain Graeme Smith opened the way for him to play and Amla grabbed his chance, bringing some solidity to a top order that had looked brittle without him in the first match of the series as the selectors opted for big hitters Loots Bosman and Herschelle Gibbs up the order.
Amla came back from India with his reputation in both the Test and 50-over formats of the game enhanced, and ranked No2 in the Test batting rankings behind India's Virender Sehwag.
Now there is the small matter of the 20-over game where he has featured only twice for South Africa, both times against Australia - the last match in Johannesburg on March 27 last year.
"I do feel that there is a definite opportunity for players like myself to excel in T20," Amla told Sowetan.
While a number of his Proteas teammates are involved in the Indian Premier League that starts tomorrow, Amla will soon be off to England for a short stint with county side Nottinghamshire. "Depending on whether I make the T20 World Cup team, the next tour is the West Indies in May and June," said Amla, who is on the shortlist of 30 players that will be trimmed to 15 before the tournament.