Sunfoil Dolphins spinning all-rounder Keshav Maharaj’s regular top performances for the Durban franchise throughout the recently concluded 2015/16 domestic season saw him claim the runners-up award in the South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) Domestic Most Valuable Player rankings.
The left-arm orthodox and hard-hitting lower order batsman – who has recently also made a name for himself with his hugely improved efforts in the field – finished on 436 ranking points, 32 behind the bizhub Highveld Lions’ Dwaine Pretorius and nine ahead of the VKB Knights’ Werner Coetsee.
“I only found out that I was in the top five of the MVP rankings with about three weeks to go in the season,” explained Maharaj.
“While it is obviously always nice to receive these sorts of accolades, I’d far rather finish tenth in the rankings and help win a trophy for the Dolphins,” he added.
While second place in the RAM Slam T20 Challenge was as close as Durban franchise came to silverware – something Maharaj, like many of his team mates, had set himself as a goal for the season – his regular contributions with bat and ball as well as in the field were pleasing for the former Northwood High School pupil.
With ball in hand, Maharaj claimed 56 wickets across all three formats – his 36 Sunfoil Series and 12 RAM Slam T20 scalps was the highest for Sunfoil Dolphins in those two campaigns – while he also chipped in 532 handy runs with the bat, often scored at a run-a-ball or better.
“It is always nice to do your art as best you can,” he said of his bowling efforts.
“I worked really hard on my batting in the pre-season as wanted to contribute a lot more with the bat this season so it was good to be able to do this on occasion and nice to see all the hard work starting to pay off.”
Maharaj’s vastly improved fielding – which saw him claim eight franchise catches in 2015/16 – may well be attributed to the hard work he put in last winter as well, not only on his technique but his fitness too.
Under the guidance of Prime Human Performance Institute’s experts and with his dedication and commitment, Maharaj’s strength and conditioning was so good that he also finished tie-second on the SACA Fitness rankings behind The Unlimited Titans’ Junior Dala and alongside Sybrand Engelbrecht (Cape Cobras), Ayabulela Gqamane and Colin Ackermann (both Warriors).
Having spent previous seasons time trying to establish himself in the Sunfoil Dolphins mix, 2015/16 saw the 26 year-old secure a regular berth in the match day eleven with consistently strong performances.
“I started to play more consistently last season but this was the first season that I played almost every match, missing only a couple due to rain and one because of my involvement in the South Africa ‘A’ squad.
“Previously, every season I was branded a different format specialist so it was nice to enjoy my first season where I was involved and contributing in all three formats.”
So consistent have Maharaj’s efforts been for both the Dolphins and South Africa ‘A’, that some have even suggested a full national call up is now not far away, despite the emerging spinner keen to remain focused on the current task at hand.
“It is every youngster’s dream to play for the Proteas!” admitted Maharaj.
“There has been a little bit of talk here and there by some on social media, but I try not get caught up in that.
“I’m just trying to focus on contributing consistently at domestic level in order to help the Dolphins win games and hopefully trophies too,” he added.
After a long 2015/16 season – on the back on some back-to-back campaigns both locally and in the UK – Maharaj is looking forward to some down time in the coming weeks before starting his preparations for 2016/17.
Another of the Sunfoil Dolphins mix to have been on the brink of recognition for his domestic contributions was Craig Alexander whose strong finish to the season saw him finish fifth in the Sunfoil Series Sizzler award for the final five matches of the competition, an award also based on the SACA MVP rankings.