Keshav Maharaj, South Africa‘s top left-arm spinner, is certain about the big impact slow bowlers will have on the anticipated flat pitches at the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup in the US and the West Indies, scheduled for June.
The ninth edition of the tournament is set to be held from June 1 to 29.
“Spinners will play a crucial role in the upcoming T20 World Cup.
Wickets are getting better and boundaries are getting shorter. There is much need for a spinner in the team to provide control and variety,” Maharaj told PTI in an exclusive interview.
“Hopefully, these T20 platforms can give spinners even bigger role to players coming to the international stage,” he added.
The accomplished left-arm orthodox spinner — who secured 14 wickets in nine matches with an impressive economy rate of 4.37, including a four-wicket haul against New Zealand, in last year’s ODI World Cup in India — plays a crucial role in the South African team.
At 34 years old, he attributes his success to being a “street-smart” cricketer and aims to mentor the upcoming generation of slow left-arm orthodox bowlers within the South African squad.
“You have to be street smart to succeed in T20s as a left-arm spinner. Do your homework. There is a need for any left arm or right arm or finger spinner to complement each other.
“If I can help the youngsters in this art of finger spin, I would like to believe that there will be some sort of motivation for them to continue with it and progress to higher level in international cricket,” said Maharaj.
Maharaj, an key player in the Proteas’ T20 squad, believes that the shortest format is crucial for the advancement and evolution of the sport.
“I haven’t had IPL experience as yet but have been involved in SA20 and it is very good for the game. It is really drawing a lot of good exposure for the fans. It is also a nice incentive for local cricketers to rub shoulders with the best in the world,” he said
Maharaj is also also working on improving his batting abilities alongside refining his core craft.
“I am working on my power-hitting as well because I know that I possess this ability. I hope to do well in both batting and bowling in the near future,” Maharaj said.
Maharaj, a devout follower of Lord Ram, finds solace in the devotional melody ‘Ram Siya Ram’ echoing through the stadium speakers every time he steps out to bat. He has requested all in-stadium DJs to honor this preference.
During a recent Test match in Cape Town against India, a viral video captured Virat Kohli standing with folded hands and then mimicking pulling a bowstring when the song played.
Maharaj expressed admiration for the consecration ceremony at the Ram Temple in Ayodhya and eagerly anticipates visiting the sacred site during his next trip to India.
“I come from a very religious and spiritual family where religion and spirituality were taught to me but never forced upon. I just felt that it gives me guidance and perspective of life in tough situations. I follow the belief and very entwined with my religion and my spirituality,” said the Durban-born cricketer.
“I do celebrate all the Hindu festivals at home. I send messages across whatever belief you have, it is important to have some belief in life,” said Maharaj, who shared a special message on social media on Ram Mandir Pran Pratishtha day in Ayodhya on January 22,
Maharaj’s great-grandfather originated from Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, and relocated to Durban in 1874 as an indentured laborer.
“I am a very staunch devotee of Lord Ram and something of that magnitude to happen is something special. It doesn’t happen in many places around the world so I was quite excited that it did happen,” he said.
“I am sure if I do come to India in near future and if time allows, I would love to make a trip to Ayodhya,” sstated the captain of SA20 team Durban SuperGiants.
(With PTI inputs)