Very Special To Be Named South Africa's Men's Cricketer Of The Year: Keshav Maharaj


Johannesburg, Aug 15 (IANS) Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj said it felt very special for him to be adjudged as the Men's Cricketer of the Year in the 2021-22 Cricket South Africa (CSA) Awards ceremony held virtually.

In the last 12 months, Maharaj cemented his status as an all-format player, having featured across 13 ODIs, eight T20Is and as many Test matches, picking 51 wickets. Maharaj, 32, made his T20I and captaincy debut in the tour to Sri Lanka last year. After claiming his maiden T20I wicket off his very first ball, Maharaj went on to feature in the ICC Men's T20 World Cup in the UAE.

In Test matches, Maharaj had a great start by becoming the second South African bowler and first spinner to claim a hat-trick with consecutive dismissals of Kieran Powell, Jason Holder, and Joshua Da Silva in the second match against the West Indies at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground. He then went on to wrap up the season with standout figures of 7-32 in the first Test against Bangladesh at Durban, his home ground.

'Wow, when I heard about it, I almost broke down in tears. It's probably one of the most humbling but highest moments in my career. I mean you dream of playing for South Africa, never think you'll quite get there and then you get the opportunity to be named the South African Men's Cricketer of the Year, it is very special.'

'I am really honored and privileged to receive this award and I hope I can continue from strength to strength and keep raising the bar and help the team most importantly get to number one in all formats of the game and hopefully win our first World Cup,' said Maharaj.

Apart from Maharaj, women's pacer Ayabonga Khaka was also adjudged as the Women's Cricketer of the Year. Co-incidentally, both players were also recipients of the Players' Player of the Year Award.

Ayabonga was rewarded for a stellar season with the ball after taking a total of 31 wickets in all formats with her playing a key part in a four-pronged bowling attack for the Proteas women in 18 ODIs and three T20Is. She began her season with a nine-wicket display in the West Indies in September last year, as South Africa won both ODI and T20I series.

In the reverse tour hosted in Johannesburg in early 2022, Ayabonga clinched a maiden career five-wicket haul before ending with a series-leading 10 wickets as South Africa clinched the four-match ODI series.

'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 recognizing my contribution to our team. Thanks goes to all my coaches and their efforts to help me continue raising my game,' said Ayabonga.

She then took her sublime form into the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup in New Zealand, becoming only the fifth South African woman to take 100 ODI wickets in the tournament opener against Bangladesh. South Africa finished their World Cup campaign in the semi-finals, with Ayabonga taking 12 scalps to finish sixth on the wicket-taker's list.

'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,' concluded Ayabonga.




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