Keshav Maharaj, who was named in the Proteas squad left yesterday to tour Australia along with left-arm chinaman Tabraiz Shamsi.
Former Proteas spinner Paul Harris is a veteran isn’t surprised by the selection of Maharaj: “He deserves it. He’s done well for at least two seasons.
The selection of two more new spinners to make their debut on the Australia tour has raised the question of whether South Africa, a country that has mostly never used spinners to hold up one end while they rotated their pacemen on the other, is going through something of a slow bowling boom.
“Shamsi and I are good friends from having bowled well together when he was at the Dolphins. Whether he plays or I play doesn’t matter, as long as a spinner is playing. It’s the same around the country,” says Maharaj
In the sport’s inner circle, the selection had been two seasons in the making.
SA Under-19 coach Lawrence Mahatlane, who warns that Maharaj is a tough competitor, says it’s a combination of a few things.
“Nobody’s picked up the spin bowling role by the scruff of the neck and made it his own, which means the selectors have had to cast their net wide,” he says.
“Also, conditions of the wickets and captains’ understanding of how to use spinners have helped development of spinners. Credit must also go to [Cricket SA] for doing something about improving spin with its initiative of taking some of the spinners to camps in India.”
But he has a caveat: “It’s all exciting, but you have to ask if the batsmen aren’t good enough at playing spin, or are the spinners getting better?”
Harris agrees with Mahatlane’s assertion about helpful wickets and more in-tune captains, adding another reason: “The young guys coming through actually want to be spinners because they’ve got guys to look up to them, unlike in the past when everyone wanted to be Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Dale Steyn.”