Keshav Maharaj – the man for all occasions


DURBAN – A year ago, Keshav Maharaj would have told you that he was more likely to don Protea green before he walked out in Test white.

How long a year can be when the stars align.

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Keshav Maharaj is applauded off the field by Proteas captain Faf du Plessis after taking 6/40 against New Zealand in Wellington. Photo: Andrew Cornaga, www.photosport.nzProteas spinner Keshav Maharaj has the ability to adapt his game in difficult circumstances and come out on top. Photo: Dave Hunt, EPAThe batting prowess of Keshav Maharaj down the order is a valuable commodity for the Proteas. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, Backpagepix

On Wednesday, convenor of national selectors Linda Zondi read out Maharaj’s name along with 14 others who will represent South Africa at the Champions Trophy next month.

“It was a very nice surprise, and I am looking forward to playing in a tournament for my country,” Maharaj explained.

It completes the most remarkable summer of his life, where he has risen from obscurity to being central to the national squad’s plans.

The irony, as Maharaj himself admitted, is that the one-day squad call-up is now a surprise, even though his skill-set had always suggested this path made more sense.

He bowls confidently, with variety in pace and line – according to circumstances – and, what’s more, he can hold and wield a piece of English willow.

That second bit almost goes completely against the South African spin grain. Indeed, it may be the key to him being indispensable across all formats.

“I have always worked on my batting, because I realise how important it is to try and contribute in all aspects,” the all-rounder reiterated later on Wednesday.

“I wasn’t too happy with my contributions in New Zealand with the bat, and I was going to spend the first part of the winter working on my game,” he revealed.

Those plans, like so many others, have happily changed now, as Maharaj continues his rise to being South Africa’s go-to slow bowler.

In the season of his lifetime, he has earned himself a Test cap, some memorable scalps, a national contract and, now, a seat on the plane heading to an ICC event.

“I guess I’ll be spending a large chunk of the summer in Britain, which is quite exciting,” he added with typical understatement.

He is not completely alien to conditions in the UK, having enjoyed two club stints there, over a decade ago. “I played a bit of club cricket in Sussex, as well as a bit in the Lancashire League in 2005,” he reflected.

“So I know what the weather can be like at this time of year, but I’m looking forward to playing in those conditions now,” he said cheerfully.

That’s the thing with Maharaj. His ability – and willingness – to adapt to whatever presents itself is paying dividends.

May and June was supposed to be a bit of downtime, looking ahead to a Test series against England in the prime of the British summer. But fate had other plans for the left-armer, as he will now catch a bit of spring, too, wearing Protea green.

The sun is evidently still in full bloom, in the extended summer of his wildest dreams.

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