Keshav Maharaj, South Africa’s premier left-arm spinner, has been ruled out of the third Test against India, which starts on Saturday in Ranchi. Maharaj sustained a shoulder injury during the second Test in Pune and will require two-to-three weeks’ recovery time. Cobras left-arm spinner George Linde has been called up to the squad as a replacement.
Losing Maharaj is a major blow to South Africa, who are already 2-0 down in the three-Test series but have 40 points of the World Test Championship to still play for in the final fixture. Though Maharaj has not had the success of India’s spinners, he is South Africa’s highest wicket-taker of the series with six scalps – albeit with an average of 85.66 – and has also bowled the most number of overs. He was also one of the few players who showed fight with the bat, scoring a career-best 72 in the first innings in the second Test and featuring in a ninth-wicket stand of 109 with Vernon Philander, after he had already picked up the injury.
Maharaj was bowling his 50th over in India’s only innings of the Test when he tried to stop a run after Virat Kohli punched the ball towards long-on. Maharaj fell on his right shoulder and immediately rolled over, clutching it in pain. He was treated on the field and completed the over, but left the field for scans shortly after. His first set of scans were inconclusive and he was sent for a second scan on Saturday morning when he was also required to bat. Maharaj was strapped up and batted in a marathon stand, only occasionally grimacing after attempting shoulder-intensive shots like the pull. Nonetheless, Maharaj has been diagnosed as having hurt a muscle and will not be fit in time for the Ranchi Test.
South Africa have two other spinners in the squad, left-arm spinner Senuran Muthusamy and offspinner Dane Piedt. Both played in the first Test in Visakhapatnam, where they were largely ineffective, and Piedt was dropped for Pune. He may come into contention again for the third Test, unless the team management is after a like-for-like replacement for Maharaj, in which case Linde may make his debut.
Linde has made a good start to the domestic season, which began earlier in the week, and sits atop the wicket-takers’ chart with 11 for 131 from his first match. Those figures need to be taken in context, as they were claimed on a pitch where 39 wickets fell in two days.
However, Linde has been on the national selectors’ radar. He was part of the South Africa A side that toured India for a List A series prior to the senior side’s arrival, and was in the T20I squad, although he did not play a game.