Left-arm spinner and lower order batsman Keshav Maharaj turned out to be a surprise inclusion for the opening Test between the Proteas and Australia. The Durban-born Maharaj has made great strides in South Africa’s domestic circuit, and is looking to make a mark in Test series against Australia.
Here are a few interesting facts about the 26-year old cricketer of Indian origin.
His full-name is Keshav Athmanand Maharaj. He gets his middle name from his father, Athmanand Maharaj. His father used to play for the Natal B team as a wicket-keeper during the apartheid period. Athmanand's dream of representing South Africa couldn't be fulfilled as he was an Indian and had to suffer racial discrimination then.
In 1992, when India traveled to South Africa for the Friendship tour, Athmanand was among the many friends the Indian players made. Back then, it was commonplace for members of the Indian community to host the visiting team for meals, and the Maharaj home was one that the Indian players visited. Indian cricketer, Kiran More claims to be still in touch with the Maharaj family.
His father decided to switch over from a cricket to a more public service oriented job and began to concentrate on Keshav's career in cricket. He had a brief stint as deputy director general of sport in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Province and completed cricket coaching courses, all the while giving his son lessons in the game. Keshav played in the backyard, in the Bakers Mini-Cricket programme (a developmental sports programme for primary school kids), and at school. He was a left-arm seamer and a decent batsman back then.
Keshav's transition into a spin bowler is a pretty interesting one. He started off as a pacer back in his school days. However, there was one instance where he was furious over something and decided to bowl spin in the nets. That was the beginning of his transformation. Looking at what he could do as a spinner, his father advised him to make the switch permanent. And his father, Athmanand, being a wicket-keeper only helped the cause.
Maharaj made a mark instantly and became a regular member of his school's senior team. Maharaj made his first-class debut at the tender age of 16 years and 268 days for Kwazulu-Natal in the 2006-07 domestic season. In 2008, despite breaking into the provincial Under-19 side, he was unable to make a cut in South Africa's Under-19 squad. But that didn't stop Keshav as he was chosen by the South African Academy and given a rookie contract by Dolphins. In his first class career, Maharaj has taken 267 wickets since his debut which is the highest for any left-arm spinner in South Africa.
Maharaj was also selected to tour Bangladesh with the South Africa Academy in 2010, where he grabbed 13 wickets in two four-day games against Bangladesh Cricket Board Academy. In one of the T20 matches during the tour, he took 4 for 12 off four overs while opening the bowling.
Maharaj is also an extremely handy batsman lower down the order and has already scored 2 hundreds and 7 fifties at an average of 22.86 the first class level. His best season with the bat was in 2012-13, where he made 481 runs at an average of 48.10.
He has been playing with Dolphins since 2009, the franchise team from KwaZulu-Natal province. In the last two seasons for them, he bagged 53 wickets for Dolphins, which is the highest by a bowler in South Africa.
Maharaj also played for Cuckfield in the Sussex Premier League in 2013, and for Nielson in the Lancashire League for 2015. In the very first game of the 2016-17 season against Warriors, Maharaj took 13 for 157 and scored 72 coming in at number 9. Out of 13 wickets in that game, he took 7 in the first innings, a first for him in domestic cricket.
As far as his personal life is concerned, Maharaj is a religious person, who takes part in daily prayers at home. He also wishes to visit River Ganges at some point of time in his life. Apart from cricket, he loves football. His favorite cuisine is butter chicken with tandoori roti. Keshav also holds a marketing degree and has a great passion for cooking. He has been part of several cooking shows on a local radio station.
Keshav Maharaj considers Rahul Dravid as his role model and wants to be respected around the world like him. He is also an ardent fan of Muttiah Muralitharan and Herschelle Gibbs. Maharaj has been drafted in the side alongside another spinner, Tabraiz Shamsi.
Faf du Plessis is leading the side in the absence of the injured AB de Villiers.