TELFORD VICE, Perth
JUST more than three weeks ago Keshav Maharaj was focused on plotting his next move for the Dolphins. Then his phone rang with a call from SA selection convenor Linda Zondi.
Next thing Maharaj was packing for Perth, where he stood in front of a thicket of media microphones on Monday discussing the possibility of what would have been unthinkable a month previously: his test debut.
“I’m very anxious,” the left-arm spinner said about the thought of being named in SA’s XI for the first test against Australia at the WACA on Thursday.
“Obviously I want to play my first test, but it comes down to picking the best possible team to win the test match.
“I’ve just been trying to do my business and hopefully that’s enough to crack the nod.”
For that to happen Maharaj, who has not played senior international cricket in any format, will have to get past Tabraiz Shamsi – the left-arm wrist spinner who must be considered the senior spinner in the squad by dint of the three one-day internationals he has played.
And if he does?
“There’s going to be a lot of nerves but I’m just going to try and block out everything around me and keep doing what I’ve been doing.
“It’s taken me seven years of proper first-class cricket to get here.”
Maharaj stood a few metres from the boundary as he said that, but he could be as far from taking those last few steps over the ropes as if he were almost 8000 kilometres away in Durban.
What with the pitch prepared for last season’s WACA test condemned for its feathery flatness, Thursday’s surface promises to brim with the zest that once made the ground a fast bowler’s pleasure patch.
That could prompt SA to pick all the fast bowlers they can find – four, anyway – and leave the slow bowling to part-timers like Dean Elgar and JP Duminy.
But Maharaj had not given up hope.
“Only when we see the wicket on the day will the team be able to tell me my role,” he said.
“As a spinner you’ve just got to bowl overs and contain the batsmen and hopefully pick up a wicket here, there and everywhere.”
For all his endearing ambition to be in the XI, Maharaj’s selection remains far more possible than probable.
But who knows, considering the habitually healthy eater and food blogger has already enjoyed unusual experiences in Australia.
“I’ve had two days where I’ve eaten pizza …”