Proteas spinner Keshav Maharaj scoops top men’s honours at CSA awards
Bowlers dominated the CSA Players’ Awards this week, with Ayabonga Khaka and Keshav Maharaj taking the premier honours.
Keshav Maharaj was the big winner as he scooped the SA Player of the Year as well as the Players’ Player of the Year Award in the men’s category at the Cricket South Africa virtual awards ceremony on Sunday.
“Wow, when I heard about it, I almost broke down in tears. This is probably one of the most humbling but highest moments of my career,” he said.
Maharaj (32) has been a stalwart of the Test side since making his debut in 2016, but has recently cemented and excelled in the white-ball teams as well.
“The clarity I got when coach (Mark Boucher) first entered the set-up and asked me questions as to why I’m not playing white-ball cricket. I didn’t even know, myself. I did realise there was a pecking order in T20 cricket which I had to go and work and put performances to earn a position within the squad.
“Then, transitioning the white-ball things from Test match cricket, coach just provided the clarity on what I needed to do and what I needed to work on, and fortunately enough I went back to domestic cricket and did that and he kept to his word and gave me the opportunity and I never looked back from then.”
In the past 12 months, Maharaj featured in 13 ODIs, eight T20Is and eight Test matches, racking up a haul of 51 wickets along the way.
“When you dream of playing for South Africa, you don’t think you are going to get there, but then when you do — and you get named the South African Men’s Player of the Year — it is very special.
“Not only for me, but also for my family back home, and after all the sacrifices they made to get me to where I am, I think it will be an emotional moment for them.”
In the Test arena, one of his most memorable moments came last year at the start of the season, when he became the second South African bowler and first spinner to claim a hat-trick after the consecutive dismissals of Kieran Powell, Jason Holder and Joshua Da Silva in the second Test against the West Indies at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground at St Lucia.
“The hat-trick was something special to me. I didn’t even know how to react, I actually belly-flopped on the pitch… it was pretty funny,” he said.
Maharaj is in England preparing to take on the home side in a three-match Test series. South Africa have not beaten England on their home turf in a Test series since 2012 and are determined to change that.
“We know we’ve got a big series ahead of us against England… fingers crossed we come over the line, but I know we’re putting in the hard work and the boys are determined to do something special on this tour,” Maharaj said.
Khaka wins women’s award
Like Maharaj, Proteas women seam bowler Ayabonga Khaka also took home the SA Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year Award in the women’s category.
Khaka was rewarded for a stellar season with the ball after taking 31 wickets in all formats with her fast-medium pace.
The 30-year-old began her campaign with nine wickets in an away series in the West Indies in September last year, with South Africa victorious in both the ODI and T20I series.
In the reverse tour hosted in Johannesburg in early 2022, Khaka took her game to new heights with a maiden five-wicket haul before ending with a series-leading 10 wickets as the home side clinched the four-match series.
The right-armer then took her sublime form into the team’s ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup opener against Bangladesh in New Zealand. Khaka became only the fifth South African woman to take 100 ODI wickets.
Khaka took 12 scalps at the tournament to finish sixth on the wicket-takers’ list.
“I am humbled and honoured to be named the Player of the Year. Especially when everyone had a great season. It means a lot to me because this (Player’s Player of the Year) is an award that comes from my colleagues. I want to thank them very much for recognising my contribution to our team,” said Khaka.
“Thanks goes to all my coaches and their efforts to help me continue raising my game. Their work doesn’t go unnoticed. Thank you to my family for the support they give me, no matter what.
“I also want to thank my teammates for the support they have given me… my contribution wouldn’t have been highlighted if it weren’t for them. I want to say thank you to all the cricket fans for their support. I ask them to continue even tomorrow, and never stop.” DM
Women’s T20 International Player of The Year — Lizelle Lee
Women’s One-Day International Player of The Year — Laura Wolvaardt
SA Women’s Players’ Player of The Year — Ayabonga Khaka
SA Women’s Player of The Year — Ayabonga Khaka
International Men’s Newcomer of The Year — Marco Jansen
T20 International Player of The Year — Aiden Markram
One-Day International Player of The Year — Janneman Malan
Test Player of The Year — Kagiso Rabada
SA Men’s Player of The Year — Keshav Maharaj