Proteas Test regular and Hollywoodbets Dolphins star tweaker Keshav Maharaj has given the national selectors a problem to deal with his performances for the Durban Heat in the Mzansi Super League.
After the November section of the flagship domestic T20 competition, Maharaj had the best economy rate of any South African spinner just ahead of Imran Tahir and Bjorn Fortuin.
Despite his advanced years, it would seem that Tahir is still likely to play a massive role for the Proteas in T20Is as they build towards the World Cup in Australia getting underway in October 2020. Fortuin also recently made his international debut off the back of a couple of seasons of excellent white-ball displays.
Maharaj has been a top performer for the Dolphins in the shorter formats but hasn’t been able to translate that to regular appearances in limited-overs internationals.
The left-arm orthodox spinner has proven a top performer in Test cricket where his ability to build pressure and take wickets has seen him race to 100 scalps in just 27 appearances. In the limited-overs arena though, he has just four ODIs to his name and is uncapped in the T20I arena.
If you had to criticize Maharaj’s T20 game it would be his lack of wickets that would be at the heart of the critique. If he can continue to dry up the runs though, the wickets will begin to flow. To date, he has claimed 75 wickets in 97 T20s played largely in South Africa, although he also turned out for Yorkshire in the 2019 Vitality Blast.
His match-winning 3/15 against the in-form Nelson Mandela Bay Giants was a sample of what he could do, but he faces stiff competition for a place in the T20I side given the recent promotions of Fortuin and spin-bowling allrounder George Linde. Further challenges exist in the form of established international spinners Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi. After seven matches each Tahir and Shamsi are the leading wicket-takers among slow bowlers in the MSL with ten scalps apiece.
The Proteas have their best-ever spread of slow-bowling talent at the moment. However, they need to use those resources effectively to mount the best possible challenge at the T20 World Cup. Part of that will almost certainly involve blooding Maharaj in one of the T20I series this summer against England and Australia.
A big examination will be how he copes with world-class batsmen attempting to take him on and proving he can do a job for the Proteas in the game’s shortest format.