TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
WHEN he sat down to dinner with teammate Imraan Khan in East London last Thursday, Keshav Maharaj had something to celebrate.
The left-arm spinner hadn’t taken a wicket in the 14 overs he bowled that day in the Warriors’ reply to the Dolphins’ first innings of 478, but he had contributed 72 to the visitors’ total.
And in some style. Maharaj clipped his runs off 71 balls, hitting seven of them for four and four for six, and shared 108 for the eighth wicket with Khaya Zondo.
Understandably Maharaj was happy with his lot. But he became ecstatic when he took a telephone call during dinner.
“Imraan just saw this massive smile on my face,” Maharaj told TMG Digital on Monday.
“He had to keep me from being too emotional at the time.”
Maharaj had just found out he would be part of the SA squad announced on Monday to play three tests in Australia next month.
Then he got back on the phone and called his parents.
“They have been very supportive of me and my dad has been vital to getting me to where I am today, so it was only right that I did that,” Maharaj said.
His father, Athmanand Maharaj, kept wicket for Natal B, “so it seems I have some of his genes”.
The next day Maharaj junior took seven Warriors wickets to force the follow-on, an innings that brought him six more scalps to complete a match haul of 13/157.
“I had a spring in my step so I had every reason to bowl the way I did,” he said.
He also had reason to be distracted from his task, and the fact that he was not bodes well for his immediate future.
What did he think of his chances of making his test debut in Australia?
“Right now I’m just ecstatic to be recognised and be included in the squad.”
Maharaj, 26, has played 76 first-class matches since making his debut at 16.
He has taken 13 five-wicket and two 10-wickets hauls as well as scored two centuries and seven 50s, been a steady performer on the domestic scene, and played four first-class matches for SA A
But rarely has he been thought of as an international prospect – even by himself.
“It’s every youngster’s dream to play for SA but I’ve never really worried about it,” Maharaj said. “I just wanted to do well at domestic level.”
There was, he said, no great secret to his success.
“I’ve tried to keep things simple and be consistent in terms of landing the ball in the right places.
“I just try and hit my lengths as often as I can and hopefully I get the rewards.
“I also started taking my batting more seriously to give me an added advantage and give my team an added dimension.”
Maharaj will go to Australia as SA’s second-choice slow bowler behind left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, who is also uncapped at test level but has played three one-day internationals.
In the most recent, at St George’s Park on Sunday, he took his best figures of 3/36 – and that against the selfsame Aussies he will likely face in whites next month.
Maharaj is the same age as Shamsi and has also gained significant experience in his 68 first-class games.
“The main thing is the preparation that I put in before games,” Shamsi told reporters in Port Elizabeth after Sunday’s match.
“If I know that I’ve done my work behind the scenes I’m confident that, hopefully, I can deliver on the day.
“Then again you are not going to perform every day. But as long as we’re doing our processes right and making sure we’re doing our work, the rest you can’t control.
“I like letting the rest take care of itself.”
So far, it has.