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Maharaj ready for Stokes onslaught

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It’s been quite a journey for Keshav Maharaj, IOL Sport’s Zaahier Adams caught up with him at the new Solly M Sports store in Kenilworth ahead of the Proteas’ departure to England.

Keshav Maharaj is expecting a tough reception on the Proteas England tour. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Cape Town – Keshav Maharaj will be walking out to the coin toss with England captain Jos Buttler ahead of the first ODI at Chester-le-Street in Durham on Tuesday.

It’s been quite a journey for the left-arm spinner and sports correspondent Zaahier Adams caught up with him at the new Solly M Sports store in Kenilworth ahead of the Proteas’ departure to England.

From being initially viewed as a red-ball specialist to stand-in Proteas ODI captain and T20 regular.

How have you managed to broaden your game to such an extent?

When I got my first taste of international cricket, I wanted to play all three formats of the game, but I obviously needed to establish myself in one format, so I really worked hard in Test cricket.

But I always liked played white-ball cricket, so I just asked questions of the selectors at the time, and went back and worked really hard, and fortunately I was given an opportunity.

How much do you actually enjoy the leadership side of things?

I’ve loved it from a young age. I think it helps my game, it gives me a different perspective, but also gives me a different thought process and also calms me down.

I’ve always wanted to captain my country at some stage, and I’ve been fortunate and blessed to have that opportunity now.

Tell us, what is it like to have a bowl with Tabraiz Shamsi, and do you guys learn from each other?

We’re fortunate that we played together from a young age at the Dolphins. We have a good relationship, a good understanding. Obviously, he is a more attacking spinner and I am more a defensive spinner, and we try to complement each other.

He’s done exceptionally well the last three years, being the No.1 T20 spinner in the world. I’m very pleased for him and hopefully we can grow that relationship even further over time.

The Proteas have some unfinished business with England in the red-ball format. Have you been taking notice of “Bazball” and the big statements Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes have been making since being in charge?

I think our Test team has been on a high of late. It will be a good test of character. England were obviously in a transitional phase, but now they’ve got new personnel and they’ve done really well.

It will be a good test for us. If we do accomplish this mission, we will know how far we’ve come.

Match-ups at the buzzword, particularly a left-arm spinner against a left-handed batter. Is Ben Stokes lining you up already?

I’m sure he is based on the way he’s been playing in county cricket hitting the ball to all parts of the ground (laughs). But I think that’s where all the video analysis (will help) and all those things come into play. Hopefully we can combat that as a team with good tactics.

After the England tour, the T20 World Cup looms large on the horizon. How are the preparations progressing?

I think the India series was a good test for us. They’re probably the best team in the world in their own conditions. Without wanting to get ahead of myself, because I first have to be selected for the World Cup, but I think the team is in a good space.

I think out of 14 games, we’ve won 12. We’re finding combinations within our squad, and hopefully we are the fully-fledged article when we get to the World Cup.

Lastly, you’re standing in for Temba Bavuma in England. How big a loss is Temba from a batting and leadership point of view?

I think Temba has done exceptionally well since he’s stepped up to be captain. He is a very good leader and demands respect on the field. Also the style that we play, we always needed someone to play an anchor-type of innings.

Fingers crossed, he is ready for the World Cup and has recovered from his injury. I know he’s a fighter, so he’ll be there.

@ZaahierAdams

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