Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj’s slot at the top of the ICC ODI bowling rankings is no mean feat and is proof of his outstanding work in the last few matches.
No one is prouder of his achievement than his father, Athmanand Maharaj, a retired Durban schoolteacher.
Ahead of Thursday’s semi-final against Australia, the Proteas are aiming to make history by winning the semi-finals and qualifying for their first final, while experts have named Maharaj, Quinton de Kock and Marco Jansen as some of the key players who will be able to deliver again.
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On Tuesday evening, the ICC announced Maharaj’s position on the rankings, knocking India’s Mohammed Siraj down a notch.
Earlier in the month, Maharaj was sitting at second position but moved up having picked up seven wickets in three matches, which included a four-wicket haul against New Zealand in Pune last week.
He was one of the very few bowlers who troubled India, returning figures of 1-30 when the hosts scored 326, and in their final league-stage game, he scalped two wickets against Afghanistan.
Maharaj’s father Athmanand, who recently returned from supporting his son in India, said Maharaj’s ranking was “extremely well-deserved”.
We are tremendously proud of his achievement. When he injured his Achilles in March this year, we thought this was it for him as it usually takes about nine months to heal. But Keshav, as determined and dogged as ever, was back in the park less than six months later and determined to make the World Cup. He never stopped training even while in recovery and focused on other areas that he could develop while unable to use his foot.
“This is Keshav’s signature though — resilience and utter determination to achieve what he wants. He has worked very hard and remains humble throughout it all, never forgetting to thank the Almighty.
“He focuses on what he has to do. His goal right now is to be his best to ensure that South Africa wins —be it if he is batting or bowling,” said Athmanand.
Athmanand said he will return to India for the finals if South Africa qualify.
“It’s been a marvellous opportunity to watch him play and achieve so much. It’s also been remarkable for us as a family, because of our Indian roots and heritage.
“Playing in India has always been a dream for Keshav, so it’s more than a dream come true now for him reached this milestone in the motherland.
“The local Indians have been in awe of him and his spirituality — where he always acknowledges God before going on the field and when he is bowling,” said Athmanand, adding that they are a deeply religious and spiritual family.
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An erstwhile cricketer himself, Athmanand, who played for the then Natal B side, said when Maharaj was three years old, he started directing him towards cricket.
As a cricketer myself and physical education teacher, I thought it was time to nudge Keshav in the right direction. So we started with backyard cricket practice and I was his slave-driver who took no nonsense.
“But Keshav stuck to his guns and trained with dedication. He always played way above his age level. When he was 11 years old, he was playing with 13-year-olds. That’s how he made his debut with the Dolphins at 16,” said Athmanand.