Keshav Maharaj admitted that he’s been enjoying the downtime associated with lockdown, but it’s become abundantly clear too that he utilised it to ponder the next phase of his international career.
The Proteas left-arm spinner surprised the broader cricketing fraternity on Thursday by revealing that he’d be more than keen to become captain of the national team, particularly in Tests, where there’s currently a vacancy.
His leadership qualities have come to the fore this season after shepherding the Dolphins to the One Day Cup title though that should hardly be the cornerstone of his candidacy.
The reality is that while Maharaj is an important player for South Africa, he’s not become indispensable yet.
If that were the case he wouldn’t still be left out of playing XIs in home Tests and only appear sporadically in the limited overs formats.
To his credit, Maharaj has identified a potential way to bolster his case: become a fully-fledged all-rounder.
110 wickets at 33.19 compares favourably to South Africa’s other Test spinners post-isolation, but whether it’s world-beating numbers is a matter for debate.
As a result, Maharaj would need to nudge his batting average – still a lowly 15.30 – up significantly.
“I really want to take my batting seriously and move to a bowling all-rounder or a full one so I can contribute evenly,” he said.
“I know I am capable of scoring bigger runs.”
The past season certainly provided some encouraging signs in that regard.
Both Maharaj’s Test fifties came in that time – a composed 72 against a vaunted Indian attack in Pune and a more swashbuckling 71 off 106 against England in Port Elizabeth after his first 73 deliveries only yielded 19 runs.
“In India, I got a taste of what it’s like to score an international fifty. I wanted to really kick on but it was a bit unfortunate to get out,” he said.
“My biggest problem was getting the first fifty so I now I want to try and kick on from that and get big hundreds and match-winning hundreds.”
No-one will complain if that starts happening.
– Compiled by Heinz Schenk