Keshav Maharaj just got on with the job


There were always two lobbying parties. The one camp firmly represented the supporters that made up "Team Harro", while the other one was the fierce critics of the tall blond left-arm spinner from Kommetjie.

Perhaps it had something to do with his partial upbringing in the United States - Harris spent two of his childhood years in Texas, but, like Trump, he never really cared much what people said about him.

He just got on with the job.

Even back in 2000, on his first trip to India, when he was asked at a press conference: "What do think that everyone thinks you're sh*t?" Harris never flinched.

He just got on with the job.

It’s therefore no surprise that South Africa’s latest left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj sought out Harris’s advice before leaving for Australia.

Despite all the criticism he endured throughout his career, Harris’s contribution to South Africa conquering the final frontier here in Australia in 2008 was significant.

Besides his lower-order cameo with the bat in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, Harris performed his primary role to perfection. He claimed 10 wickets over the course of the three Tests at an average of 38.70, but crucially he only conceded 2.84 runs to the over. Captain Graeme Smith was particularly appreciative of the latter statistic for it allowed him to rotate his pace arsenal consisting of Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Morne Morkel at the time.

Maharaj’s role that current Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis laid out for him at the WACA was the exact duplicate, specifically in Australia’s second innings when the injured Steyn was a significant absentee from the Proteas bowling unit.

The 26-year-old responded with 40.1 overs of control, which Du Plessis and coach Russell Domingo, acknowledged in the Perth aftermath. Like Harris he just got on with the job and was even rewarded with the final scalp of Nathan Lyon.

"I did have a chat with 'Harro' before I got here and he had a few thoughts about bowling in Australian conditions," Maharaj told the media in the southern most Australian capital on Tuesday. "I'm trying to replicate what he did because he was one of the most successful spinners for South Africa.

"He said your job here is to rest the fast bowlers because conditions are in their favour rather than yours, and you will pick up a few wickets along the way. So try and stop the game from one end and let them strike."

Maharaj and the rest of Proteas team initially had to delay their victory celebrations because last-man Nathan Lyon had reviewed umpire Nigel Llong’s original decision. Lyon’s gesture was more a desperate attempt, though, at survival with television replays clearly showing the ball was going on to hit the stumps.

Maharaj’s maiden Test wicket was, however, not that straightforward. The debutant had struck an advancing Australian captain Steve Smith on the pads three metres down the pitch. Pakistan umpire Aleem Dar upheld the Proteas’ leg-before appeals, which was confirmed when ball tracker showed the ball to be hitting the outside of leg stump which confirmed the fact that Smith would forever be Maharaj’s first Test scalp.

Although the umpire and TV referrals indicated that the correct decision was made, this has not prevented a furore breaking out here in Australia about the accuracy of the technology available. Despite having just played one Test thus far, the 26-year-old seems to be taking all the scrutiny around his first Test wicket in his stride.

"I was very nervous on the first day. I didn't know what to expect. It's very intense. For five days you're focused on every ball. The only breaks you get is lunch and tea. It's a proper gentleman's game and a proper man's game and a test of character," said Maharaj, who claimed 3/56 in Australia's first innings.

"But it looked pretty straight to me and obviously any bowler that hits the pads is going to appeal if he thinks there is half a positive that's going to come out of it. Fortunately it went in my favour

"Bowlers also need a chance. Bats are getting bigger. Fields are getting smaller. It's nice to have something swing your way. My first Test wicket is a critical moment in my career. Having someone of his (Smith) calibre as my scalp is very special to me," he added.

It seems like all Maharaj wants to do is get on with the job. Hopefully he will get another chance to do just that in the second Test here on Saturday at the Bellerive Oval.

Independent Media

It's no surprise that SA's latest left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj sought out Paul Harris's advice before leaving for Australia, writes Zaahier Adams.

Original source: Keshav Maharaj just got on with the job