Zubayr Hamza doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, but the possibility of making his debut in the current South Africa batting unit is “something you only dream of”.
Hamza has been travelling as a reserve batsman in the Test squad, but Faf du Plessis’ suspension has opened up an opportunity for the 23-year-old to be South Africa’s 100th cap since readmission.
“As a batting unit, It’s something you only dream of, batting with these guys, playing in the same side and representing your country,” said Hamza at the Wanderers on Wednesday. “I haven’t received confirmation if I am playing or not. If given the chance that would be great, I have really enjoyed my time so far, the training has been intense and everyone has been welcoming. I have felt comfortable within the team surrounding. If given the chance, I am looking forward to it. There is a lot of excitement at the moment.”
Hamza is yet to score a first-class century this season (he has three fifties for Cape Cobras), but has enjoyed an otherwise fruitful run at franchise level over the last two years, averaging a shade over 49 with nine centuries, including an unbeaten double. Although he is lacking in match time after missing out on the Mzansi Super League and a round of CSA four-day matches since he has been with the squad, he remains confident about his preparation and form.
“It was disappointing, but the month off [from the MSL] gave me perspective and I focused on working on myself and on my game,” he explained. “Yes I haven’t started off too well this season with franchise cricket but I don’t feel out of form. I still feel like I’m batting well and that I have a lot to offer. The runs and performances haven’t shown it but that is not how I feel, I have been batting well. I have been training well with the world-class coaching staff that we have here, and I have learnt a lot so far.”
Born and bred in Cape Town, Hamza matriculated from Rondebosch Boys High School. It is an institution that has produced a notable cricketing alumni including Jonathan Trott, Gary Kirsten, HD Ackerman and Andrew Puttick, who also played an early role in guiding Hamza’s development before he blossomed under Cobras coach Ashwell Prince.
While not many will have seen him bat before, Hamza’s promising first-class record speaks for itself. He is a batsman with the kind of grit that could help him slot easily into a squad that has thrived off fast bowling and braved batting in seam-friendly conditions, and professed a “willingness to battle” as what he will look to bring to the side if selected.
Hamza described his style as “at times free-flowing, but also willing to graft. Never looking the prettiest, but I take pride out of the innings where there’s a bit of struggle in them.” He grew up idolising players such as Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla, but says he has been feeding off most of the players in the squad on what it takes to perform at international level.
“When I look up to someone, it’s not necessarily the person they are, but a combination of a whole lot of people and what they bring to the game,” Hamza said. “Faf for example is very cool and calm at the crease. Then there’s Kallis’ technique, or Virat Kohli’s passion. Stuff like that, I pay attention to. I look up to those things.
“I have learnt a lot from every individual in the team, whether it is on the field or off the field. For me, I’d like to stay true to myself and stick to the game plans that have got me to this position. I will try to be self-confident and have self-belief.
“I have tucked under a few guys’ wings so far,” he admitted. “I’ve been leeching as much information as I can about what it takes to perform at this level, and then sort of combining it and finding my own mixture to try and perform as an individual.”