DURBAN – South Africa still have a spinner in their Test squad. Goes by the name of Keshav Maharaj.
In a summer of the Fast and the Furious, it would be easy to forget that the left-arm spinner is still around. He is reserved by nature, anyway, by now Maharaj has spent the past two Tests on the reserve bench, too.
Given his own eagerness to be out there, doing his bit, it has been hard.
“Obviously it is a bit disappointing,” he said matter-of-factly. “You understand what the team dynamics are. I am just happy to be part of a squad that is winning Test matches and series.”
Given the riches at South Africa’s disposal when it comes to pace – and their Asian opponents apparent unease at facing it – Maharaj had no other choice, really. His place in the side was also made less secure by Duanne Olivier helping himself to an endless supply of Pakistan wickets.
Even as the least experienced paceman, he couldn’t be left out at any point of the recently completed series.
“Obviously it (an all-pace attack) paid off against Pakistan, so they got it right,” Maharaj said of the selection panel.
At no point do you sense that Maharaj is growing despondent at the lack of activity. He realises that his tine will come again, and he just had to be ready.
“Ottis (Gibson) and I sat down with Dr Mohammed Moosajee and discussed what I would need to do to get ready for these Tests,” he explained of his prep for this two-match series.
Given that he bowled over 50 overs to the Cobras in Maritzburg, the left-armer certainly has miles on the clock. If he is recalled, he will be ready.
It would make a change from long chats about the future with spinning coach Claude Henderson. As Maharaj said, a cricketer just wants to play cricket.
More than that, a cricketer wants to help his side win, especially against a team they lost a series to recently. In the winter of 2018, the Proteas were spun to death in Sri Lanka, despite Maharaj’s best efforts.
The emphatic nature of Sri Lanka’s win emphasised just how well South Africa had played in 2014, when they won on the island for the first time.
“Our Test squad has bounced back and been dominant since Sri Lanka,” Maharaj pointed out.
They will look to start well in Durban, even if it is a venue where they have struggled over the past decade.
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Maharaj was part of the most recent Test defeat to Australia, a year ago. There, as he pointed out, the Proteas ran into a brilliant display of reverse-swing bowling from Mitchell Starc.
They bounced back and beat the Aussies in a thrilling series, of course, but they would far rather start well at Kingsmead this time.
Maharaj, employed by the Dolphins, is perhaps best placed to say what is needed to win by the sea.
“It’s not your swing and fast bowling wicket anymore. Over the years, with wear and tear, we’ve lost that. Patience is the key at Kingsmead.”
And no one in the Proteas squad knows more about patience than Maharaj these days.
The first Test starts on Wednesday.
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