Maharaj can turn things around

Duanne Olivier believes the spinner may yet have a role to play

04 January 2022 - 11:27
Spinner Keshav Maharaj has been used sparingly so far against India. Duanne Olivier believes his impact will be felt later.
Spinner Keshav Maharaj has been used sparingly so far against India. Duanne Olivier believes his impact will be felt later.
Image: Getty Images

Keshav Maharaj's influence against India has been negligible, at best.

Historically and in recent times Maharaj's left arm spin has done little to trouble India's batsmen, who to be fair, are all schooled and tooled to deal decisively with whatever comes whizzing their way.

Seven Test wickets at almost 100 a piece against India tell a historical tale of its own, while his limited deployment so far in seam friendly highveld conditions have raised questions about his suitability for the current engagement at the Wanderers.

Maharaj bowled 18 overs in the first Test and just one 'let's see what happens' on the cusp of tea in India's first innings at the Wanderers. His potential impact later in the game should however not be under estimated.

Duanne Olivier has done most of his talking rather effectively for the Proteas on the field but it was in front of recording devices off it, that he served that reminder after the first day.

Critics in a flat spin

“Kesh is going to play an important role in the second innings,” said Olivier who has first hand knowledge of the capriciousness of the sport.

He knows too well affection and wrath are part of the same coin.

“He didn't bowl much in the first innings, and the wicket can deteriorate, and it might spin in the second innings.

“When that happens, and we don't play a spinner, we'll then be asked why we didn't play a spinner. Everyone in the team has a role to play in the team, and we're going to need Kesh despite only bowling one over in the first innings.

“He may bowl 20 overs in the second innings, so you can never know, but everyone understands their role.”

Maharaj is seasoned professional who is of great value to the Proteas' cause. He is a senior player whose contribution cannot be solely measured in the wickets column. 

Of course, selecting a spinner has wider consequences for the balance of the team. SA opted to go with four front-line seamers and a spinner in this Test. It meant there was no room for all rounder Wiaan Mulder, whose contributions with the bat did little to weigh the argument in his favour.

Without him though, the SA lower order looks brittle and they will need their recognised batters to dig deep if the series is going to be squared.

“If we can bat big, it is going to put us into a good position. If we look too far ahead, our focus won't be where we need it to be,” said Olivier.

“Yes, we want to win the series, but the focus is where we need to be and must break down our processes to make things easier.”


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