Keshav Maharaj, South Africa's leading spinner in Test cricket, hopes to replicate the consistency of India's experienced spin twins Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, he said ahead of the three-match series beginning Wednesday, 2 October in Visakhapatnam.
Maharaj has been a regular feature in South Africa's Test squad ever since his debut against Australia in 2016. The left-arm spinner has 94 wickets from 25 Tests so far at an impressive average of 28.45. In hopes to raise his game further, he is now looking to emulate Ashwin and Jadeja, who are currently the leading spinners in the MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings for bowlers.
"It is nice that people speak highly of you," Maharaj said ahead of his maiden Test tour to India. "Look at Jadeja and Ashwin. Ashwin has got a lot of variations and Jadeja keeps it simple but the key is consistency and that makes it uncomfortable for the batsmen. I can emulate that going forward and do my job from one end."
Ashwin and Jadeja had picked up 54 wickets combined when the teams last met in India in 2015. Maharaj, who himself enjoyed his first taste of Test cricket in the subcontinent when he claimed 16 wickets from two games in Sri Lanka in 2018, including a career-best 9/129, believes that spin will play a key role in the upcoming series too.
"You got to expect the ball to turn in the sub-continent and that is why people carry an extra spinner here," said the 29-year-old. "As far as bowling to Indian batsmen goes, you can only Test yourself against the best. The series will tell me how good I am and if I belong here in international cricket."
"Besides spin, reverse swing will be key," he added. "Every bowling unit everywhere in the world likes to utilise reverse swing if available. India have got strong bowlers including Mohammad Shami, who is unplayable at times. If it starts to reverse, then we have also got amazing [fast] bowlers, who can utilise the conditions."
There is no point looking back and things may not go our way. But we are here to compete.
Maharaj performed well in the three-day practice game against Board President's XI, picking up three wickets, before Aiden Markram and Temba Bavuma scored 100 and 87 respectively. He now hopes for similar performances from his teammates in the next few weeks.
"It was important that our batters got some time in the middle," Maharaj said. "They have been working on how to tackle Indian conditions and it is nice to get a hit."
"If you look at the freshness in the side, there is a hell lot of new faces and that can work for us. There is no point looking back and things may not go our way. But we are here to compete."
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