Exclusive: Amla should be named SA Cricketer of the Year

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Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla or AB de Villiers will be named South Africa's Cricketer of the Year on Monday – and, really, the winner of the prestigious accolade is all but a forgone conclusion.

Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla or AB de Villiers will be named South African Cricketer of the Year on Monday – and, really, the winner of the prestigious accolade is all but a forgone conclusion.

The award will account for performances in Test, ODI and Twenty20 International series between 1 May 2012 and 30 April. The period brought the Proteas plenty of success in the most testing form of the international game, but characteristic plight in limited-overs competition.

Series victories over England, Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan made for an entirely prolific 12 months, with one man at the fore throughout. While a separate honour exists for the Test Cricketer of the Year, Amla's unrivalled dominance demands the lot.

Despite the growth of T20I entertainment and a plateau in ODI popularity, Test match cricket continues to be – rightly so – the ultimate judge. Amla, without fault and modest regardless of success, has welcomed the judgment entirely.

Indeed, Philander complemented a breakthrough opening season with a solid second and du Plessis' capitalisation on JP Duminy's injury was epitomised by <i>that</i> Tour de Force in Perth. Steyn, meanwhile, consistently justified his standing at the helm of the ICC rankings for bowlers and de Villiers took to the permanence and pressure of first-choice wicketkeeper-batsman superbly.

Amla, however, galvanised it all. Where Philander and Steyn would instigate, he would follow through. What de Villiers and du Plessis would start, he would continue – if not complete. Instances of failure were far and few between.

A record-breaking 311 not out at The Oval was always going to be a very tough act to better and, while the numerical extent was never matched, the gradient of importance was never questioned. It'll won't genuinely emerge from the shadow of its preceding triple ton a week prior, but Amla's patient 121 at Lord's landed the final blow needed to take the number one ranking away from England.

Retention of the title in Australia required the loyal servant and unassuming talisman to oblige. He did so, emphatically, typified by Brisbane's 104 and Perth's 196. Mitchell Johnson prevented a deserved double century, but the near miss remained ample in a historic triumph against the old enemy.

New Zealand, in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth was always going to be the easiest opposition of the season. Regardless, the fighting Amla did not let his guard down – and the shepherding invested in du Plessis was duly paid forward to Dean Elgar. His role as an instrumental mentor had never been more evident.

Finally, there was the problem posed by Pakistan, namely an attack led by the in-form Saeed Ajmal. De Villiers took the headlines with twin centuries, yet it was three half-tons and a couple of vital cameos from Amla that aided the backbone of the order.

Ultimately, Amla amassed all of 907 Test runs at the impressive average of 60.46 during the voting period. An ODI aggregate of 61.33 in 11 fixtures certainly held its place, too, and will surely be the closing constituent in gaining the award of the four other contenders.

Monday's South African Cricketer of the Year, in any case, must enjoy the momentary recognition based on past results. Focus on the future, though, will soon take precedent – a defining tour of the United Arab Emirates and difficult visits from India and Australia are bound to extend even the country's' most prolific batsman.

<b>Jonhenry Wilson</b>

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