Keshav Maharaj ready for cricket's return after tough mental test

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Keshav Maharaj
Keshav Maharaj
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Dolphins star bowler Keshav Maharaj says that sitting idle for the past six months has been frustrating, adding that it had been tough mentally not knowing when cricket would return.

But those fears were all allayed in the past week when Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced that the new campaign will begin on Monday, 2 November, with the 4-Day Franchise Series.

It ended months of wait and anxiety for everyone, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that had brought the sporting world to a standstill.

Now with the map for the season starting to take shape, Maharaj believes it will help him plan accordingly.

"Knowing where you stand in terms of the duration with the team, the stipulated number of weeks and those things then you obviously know that you're building up towards something," he said. "It's the same format for the six games and they all more or less follow one another.

"I'm just thrilled to be playing competitive sport again to be honest. For me seven months being idle and just training, a lot of the time in isolation, has not been too good.

"The hunger just began to grow and grow inside, like a monkey on your shoulder telling you things.

"I'm really excited whether we're playing red ball cricket, white ball cricket or whatever the case is. I haven't played a franchise first-class game in a long time, so that's even more exciting for me as such."

Maharaj has been missing in action from the four-day circuit due to his international commitments with the Proteas, mainly in Test cricket.

But he was also in South Africa's limited-over squad that was in India when the coronavirus first struck following a strong 50-over campaign with the Dolphins last season when he helped them win the title.

"It was frustrating, but it is what it is, and you've got to accept what has happened the world over in 2020," he said of the last tour being canned due to the global situation. "You can't take it lightly, we'll just have to be more wary going forward about the systems and protocols.

"But the most important thing now is that we are going to play. The season is finally upon us.

"Obviously there is also the international element and we don't know what that schedule looks like for the moment, but it's a good opportunity to see what the depth in our system is like in terms of the next six four-day games, which will serve as a good build-up to any international cricket that may come. I expect to see a very competitive season ahead."

The 2020/21 season begins with four-day action, which will be the only domestic cricket this year. Once January kicks in, however, the campaign is expected to launch full swing at all levels.

The Dolphins start their term with a home encounter against defending champions Lions at Kingsmead on 2 November.

Maharaj believes they are more than ready to get going.

"It's been so long now, but I'd probably say we're back from the start of June," he concluded. "From then we've been going at it non-stop in terms of physical work.

"At the moment we're playing three-day warm-up games, so it's been three or four months of proper training. We've been doing some fun activities just to build the team culture and create more unity amongst the group.

"It's important that those things are in place within the group so that when you are on the field in a tough moment you can help each other through those periods."

- Cricket South Africa

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