South African Cricket needs to look to the future, and there is one player who I believe is someone we need to talk about.
Playing County Cricket in the UK at the moment, in his last game for Yorkshire, Maharaj took match figures of 10-127 and scored 72 runs in a true all-round and fantastic performance.
This could not have come at a better time, as South Africa are now, preparing for the next big chapter in their careers, the start of the World Test Championship, which kicks off in the toughest tour imaginable, India.
Maharaj has had a phenomenal start to his international career for the Proteas, and his skills are only improving. After 25 Tests, he has an average of 28. For a spinner, that is remarkable. Also don’t forget that Maharaj has only had one series outside of South Africa, their tour to Sri Lanka last year, so his credentials are even more impressive.
What I especially love about him is his love and more importantly, ability in batting. My hope for him is that when a new head coach and batting coach come on board for South Africa, which in my mind, has to be before they set off for that India tour, they will nurture this side of his game, because he has genuine potential to be a good all-rounder for the Proteas.
With the likes of KG Rabada and Vernon Philander in the Test team, both of whom are more than capable in the batting department, these three can be genuine all-rounders, this would make South Africa’s lower order very strong, and one that would finally be the dogged tail that other teams struggle to remove, much like when Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock and Andrew Hall were in the team. I fondly remember New Zealand commentator, Ian Smith refer to this as the “engine room” of the batting.
With the retirement of Imran Tahir from South Africa’s ODI side, this should pave the way for Maharaj to enter the ODI team on a more permanent basis. He is a far more reliable option than Tabraiz Shamsi, who after 17 ODIs, averages a horrendous 42. Shamsi is also a liability in the field.
Maharaj is also only 29 years old, as a spinner, he can play well until the next World Cup, in India. He could be a real asset to South Africa’s campaign then.
It’s time for management and coaches to start thinking outside of the box and stop labelling players into one or the other discipline. South Africa are blessed with a fine, attacking, left arm spinner, they need to use that to their advantage.
The opportunity is there now to rebuild and restructure. The next four years will come sooner than anyone thinks, they need to have a plan in place and identify key players.
It is my belief that Keshav Maharaj will be one of these key players, and will form an integral cog in South Africa’s standing in World Cricket over the next five years.