Keshav Maharaj’s form in Test cricket has been so good that he’s made the Proteas squad for the ICC Champions Trophy without even having played an One-day International.
The 27-year-old left-arm spinner is the only surprise in the group picked for the tournament, which runs from 1 to 17 June in England.
Interestingly, the main motivation for including him is because of his batting ability.
“The challenge we’ve had over the past few years with one-day spinners is trying to select two of them who can’t bat,” said Proteas coach Russell Domingo on Wednesday.
“When we’ve played Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi together in the past, it left us thin in the lower order.
“If you look at the way ODIs are going nowadays, teams are winning games by ending on 260/7 or 280/8. You need to your No 8, 9 and 10 to contribute with the bat.”
Cue the promotion of Maharaj, who has two first-class hundreds behind his name.
“That’s why we went with Keshav, he offers you more batting depth,” said Domingo.
“His record in domestic cricket is really good. His first-class batting average is spiking towards 25 and his economy rate in one-day cricket is under five. That’s excellent in any book.”
Despite the focus being on Maharaj’s ability to score runs, there’s a perfectly valid reason to employ him as a 50-over spinner.
He was outstanding in last month’s Test series win over New Zealand, where he took 15 wickets in overcast and unfavourable conditions similar to England.
“Keshav brings a lot of control with his bowling,” said Domingo.
“If we decide to play two spinners, he’d be ideal in those conditions. But we have to be honest and say that Imran Tahir is still our No 1 tweaker in ODIs by a long way.”
An abundance of all-rounders will pretty much be a theme for the Proteas in England.
No less than four – Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius and Wayne Parnell – have been chosen.
“It will depend on conditions. England can be tricky, so it’s not a bad thing to lengthen your batting line-up without weakening the bowling much.”
Proteas squad: Hashim Amla, Quiton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Dwaine Pretorius, Keshav Maharaj, Farhaan Behardien, Morne Morkel.