The Mercury

Maharaj making a splash

- Lungani Zama

KESHAV Maharaj went to his first Cricket South Africa awards banquet, dressed in his Proteas blazer, and walked away with an award that you only get one shot at. The Internatio­nal Newcomer of the Year award is purely based on someone making an immediate impression, which is exactly what Maharaj has done.

“I am just humbled to have won such a special award, especially given the calibre of players I was up against,” Maharaj beamed.

On a night when the South African cricket fraternity saluted those who stood out over the course of the season, Test skipper Faf du Plessis doffed his cap at the strides made as a unit, deep into Saturday night.

“Tonight was about celebratin­g the season’s success, and Quinny (de Kock) obviously had a great and well deserved night,” he noted.

De Kock’s haul of five awards, including the coveted Cricketer of The Year, follows in the footsteps of Kagiso Rabada big grab last season, and was further evidence of the next batch of leaders in the Proteas coming through.

“It is very pleasing to see just how many of the guys are stepping up, and we have really looked to encourage them as leaders,” Du Plessis said.

De Kock and Rabada are already world beaters, and the manner in which they have slipped into the fast lane comes down to the environmen­t that has been created within the Proteas.

“Keshav has come in and fitted in so seamlessly. He has given us great control, and he has fantastic temperamen­t, and he deserves the recognitio­n, too,” Du Plessis enthused.

Maharaj’s spin has already done enough to convince the national selectors that he can do the job in one-day cricket too, and he finds himself in the Champions Trophy squad of 15. From the outside, the pick might have been a surprise, but not to Du Plessis.

“It makes a lot of sense. Keshav has shown he can do the job in internatio­nal cricket, so there is no reason to think he can’t do it in another format. I’m excited to see what he can do in white-ball cricket.”

As Du Plessis spoke, Maharaj was dutifully handling his media engagement­s, working the room, and perhaps accepting that this will now be a regular occurrence. Softly spoken, Maharaj plays with white-hot passion, and is always looking to learn.

Already, he has made an impression on his teammates in his own, inimitable style. To a man, they congratula­ted him through the evening, just as thrilled that he has proved himself and flourished at the top. De Kock, hands bursting full of gongs, bumped fists with him, and gave him a wink.

“I am just happy to be part of this team, and representi­ng our country.

“To walk in as a part of the team, wearing our blazers, filled me with such pride. I am obviously humbled to win the award, but the biggest thing for me is to be part of this team. I am just so honoured to be a part of it, and can’t wait for what will come next.”

Maharaj has arrived, looking the part and playing the part. He may go a few years yet before he misses out on an invite to South African cricket’s big party.


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